Shannon McNally – Coldwater – In Stores April 27
Shannon McNally got her first guitar and JJ Cale album at the age of 12 and never looked back. Combined with the classic rock she grew up listening to – The Allman Brothers, Dr. John and Hendrix – it’s the musical center of gravity she brought to her 2002 Capitol Records debut Jukebox Sparrows gaining notice from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Leno and Letterman. This decidedly rare approach for a woman drew the same accolades for indie-based Geronimo, helmed by Charlie Sexton. Now, on the self-produced Coldwater, out April 27, McNally leads her Mississippi-based band, Hot Sauce through the juncture where blues, country and soul music meet – made all the more powerful by the keys of the late, great Jim Dickinson (one of his very last recordings.)
McNally says, “I strive to combine femininity with the simple, dry way that male rock singers deliver their lines – without affectation, just the raw lyrics.” Which is most evident with her take on “Lonesome, Ornery and Mean,” a Waylon Jennings hit, while The sultry “Lovely,” about getting home to lazy mornings in bed, is a counterpoint to the influence of a male-dominated genre with a very womanly sensibility.
The bluesy lead-off track, “This Ain’t My Home” is a testimony to female solidarity – “little sister let me tell you, just how perfect you are, little sister let me tell you I can’t stand to see you starve.” “It’s commentary on the hyper-grooming-hyper critical idea of beauty that our culture and we women put on ourselves,” says McNally.
A chance meeting with Los Lobos, with whom she went to the first Further Fest, convinced her to give LA a try in 1996. She quickly landed at Capitol Records and began her recording career. It was the era of Jewel and Alanis – and, to the label’s surprise, McNally insisted Jim Keltner, Benmont Tench, and Bill Payne play on the debut, Jukebox Sparrows — garnering glowing reviews and a radio and soundtrack hit. But soon, “the city of New Orleans summoned me, it called me into its depths and devoured me.” The essence of her new surroundings brought out her innate earthiness, and her writing took on a weight and pathos that defined the Sexton-produced album Geronimo. But fate stepped in with Katrina, and a move to north Mississippi provided the next guiding force — Mary and Jim Dickinson.
“It was bittersweet that in the wake of the devastation, I found the person I should have been working with in the beginning,” said McNally in a recent interview. They recorded Coldwater at Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Studio just before his passing, his golden and mystic touches evident on the album. “I got the first box of finished product the day he died.”
But it wasn’t just Dickinson McNally found. Her new band Hot Sauce, with Eric Deaton and Jake Fussell, is soaked with North Mississippi blues traditions, and Wallace Lester on drums. She and Deaton spent last year touring and opening for Dave Alvin, Bob Schnieder and The Derek Trucks Band, with McNally getting her inner Hendrix on, taking long guitar solos.
Shannon McNally and Hot Sauce will be touring together all year, and in the meantime, she has many other projects waiting in the wings. In 2006, Dickinson produced another record, Windswept Moon. And, there’s Small Town Talk, The Songs of Bobby Charles, recorded in 2007 with, and produced by Dr John and The Lower 911 Band, also featuring both Derek Trucks and Mickey Raphael.
Says McNally, “Coldwater is a reaffirmation that that these songs needed to come out. It has refreshed my sense of artistic drive and my connection with my fans –and is reestablishing me as the live artist that I really am”