Shannon McNally: Black Irish (Compass)

Shannon McNally
Black Irish
(Compass)

Shannon McNally has a been gifted with a voice that has an ethereal hypnotic affect featuring a mix of southern drawl and Celtic lilt delivered as a velvety alto that ensnares the soul of the listener.

Lucky for us that voice caught the attention of country legend Rodney Crowell who persisted in his effort to bring McNally out of a hiatus, brought on by family struggles and the death of her mother, the resulting collaboration is her new album ‘Black Irish.’

Recorded in Nashville, the strong set of a dozen tracks is a collection of four new songs and eight favorites in a mix of blues, roots, and country. The opener “You Made Me feel For You,” is a deep blues that sizzles with sexual energy from McNally and the greasy guitar riff. She then transforms the Stevie Wonder classic “I Aint Gonna Stand For It” into a steamy bit of soul from the Memphis underground, with guest drummer Cody Dickinson supplying the deep pocket. The brooding tale of penance and persistence is presented as the anthem to womankind “Banshee Moan,” is followed by the Stax styled blues “I Went To The Well.” The tempo kicks up for the Stones inspired rocker “Roll Away The Stone,” a great loosey-goosey groove complete with Jim Hoke delivering a Bobby Keys-styled saxophone blast.

Emmylou Harris and Elizabeth Cook, join McNally for the chorus of the lilting country ballad “Black Haired Boy,” a loving tribute to Townes Van Zandt written by his dear friend Susanna Clark. McNally then takes a deep cut from the JJ Cale songbook “Low Rider,’ and flips the gender of the Tulsa blues into a song about her freewheeling man. And the juke joint gets jumping fueled by slapping’ upright bass and hot harmonica on a cover of Muddy Waters’ jump blues “The Stuff You Gotta Watch.” Crowell accompanies McNally with smooth finger picked acoustic for the lovely “Prayer In Open D,” The album closes with two gospel sing alongs; first the mournful piano-driven hymn from the Band “It Makes No Difference,” then a Delta infused stomp and shout tent revival call of the Staple Singers “Let’s Go Home.”

The title ‘Black Irish’ may be a reference to McNally’s raven hair and fine features, but it also serves as tribute to her southern upbringing that has led to her musical talents which allow her voice to cover a mix of genres with authentic soul.

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