Album Reviews

Shannon McNally

Black Irish

Artist:     Shannon McNally

Album:     Black Irish

Label:     Compass

Release Date:     06/09/2017


Often a return from a hiatus brings rejuvenation, reminding listeners why they fell in love with the artist in the first place. That’s the case here. Shannon McNally hasn’t been missing for too long—her last full length album, Small Town Talk – The Songs of Bobby Charles was released in 2013, but this one brings me back to the magic of 2005’s Geronimo, an album that created quite a buzz as this one is likely to do. I had the chance to talk to Shannon about her album, ago discussing her work with producer Rodney Crowell, who brought stellar Nashville musicians to the studio.

The opening track, “You Made Me Feel For You,” was penned by Crowell and serves as a metaphor of sorts for the entire project. As he got to know her, he felt an increasing responsibility to showcase her musical talents and re-ignite her career. They co-wrote the album’s single, “Banshee Moan,” a rallying cry for working women, stemming from her own experiences in the music industry. McNally co-wrote two other tunes, each with a different writer; “I Went to the Well,” and “Roll Away the Stone.” The others are personal favorites and Crowell suggested covers. She proves to be, not surprising to those who are familiar with her catalog, a terrific interpreter in the vein of Emmylou and Linda Ronstadt on a wide array of material from Stevie Wonder’s “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” to Robbie Robertson’s emotionally gripping “It Makes No Difference” to J.J. Cale’s shuffle “Low Rider.” She always straddled that line between roots and blues and pays homage to Muddy Waters in a rather smooth, uptown rendering of his “The Stuff You Got to Watch.”

The highlights of the album, though, are these two tracks: her takes on Susannah Clark’s song about Townes Van Zandt, “Black Haired Boy” with Emmylou and Elizabeth Cook on harmony; and Emmylou’s “Prayer in Open D” with Crowell fingerpicking on both. She closes in rousing gospel style on The Staples’ “Let’s Go Home.” McNally is back. Enjoy her wondrous voice and the effervescent spirt of this album.

—Jim Hynes

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