April 2013 will see the UK & Ireland re-issue of Sean-Nos Nua, first released in 2000 selling more than 200,000 copies worldwide. Literally translating as “Old Songs Made New”, Sean Nos Nua is a redefining moment in Sinead O’Connor’s career, an album composed of songs extracted from the bottomless well of traditional Irish folk song. Indeed, as many have proved in the past, this ancient repository is an apt source of material from which to draw and compliment the outsider’s oeuvre of an artistic mutineer such as O’Connor, for, along with the customary stories of lust and heartbreak, Irish traditional song and verse, much like that of other folk song emanating from the British Isles, is stuffed to the gills with bloody narratives of tragedy, intransient rebelliousness and lawless skullduggery.
Despite its generous thematic share of ex-pat Irishmen caught up in foreign wars, nautical misadventure (Lord Franklin), murder and piracy, Sean Nos Nua is a very feminine album, with O’Connor at her fragrant, interpretive best on the sorrowful Molly Malone and Lord Baker, which finds Christy Moore revisiting the song he performed with Planxty on the 1982 album Words and Music. Intentions to “sex things up”, as O’Connor puts it, give birth to an intriguing reggae undertow on Óró Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile while guest appearances from the Emerald Isle’s most eminent bouzouki practitioner Donal Lunny, the Waterboys‘ Steve Wickham on fiddle, Sharon Shannon on accordion and ON-U Sound producer Adrian Sherwood keep things fresh but traditionally firm-footed enough not to deter purists. And, who knows, the boozy Irish bards and archivists of the future may have occasion to recount the tales of the shaven-headed colleen from Glengeary who ripped up pictures of the Pontiff and whose backside never surrendered to the threat of a star-spangled kicking from the boot of Frank Sinatra.