Shannon McNally

Jun 24, 2021

Shannon McNally
Credit Shannon McNally

Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #249 (June 25 at 8:00pm and June 26 at 3:00pm)

Singer/songwriter Shannon McNally first emerged amid the roots rock and Americana revival of the early 2000s.

A crafty mix of soul, blues, rock, and country, McNally established herself with releases like 2002's Jukebox Sparrows and 2006's North American Ghost Music while also seeking out interesting collaborations with the likes of Neal Casal, John Hiatt, Charlie Sexton, and Dave Alvin.

Working prolifically between major and independent labels, McNally notched further career highlights with the 2013 Dr. John collaboration Small Town Talk (Songs of Bobby Charles) and 2017's acclaimed Black Irish. Known for honoring and augmenting the music of her heroes, she offered up another tribute in 2021's The Waylon Sessions, covering the music of Waylon Jennings.

Growing up on Long Island, McNally took influence from her parents' record collection and began singing songs at home with her guitar-playing father. Albums by Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, Nina Simone, the Band, Emmylou Harris, and PJ Harvey served as early inspirations, and after college she spent a period of abroad, busking in Paris.

Executives at a small music publishing company called McNally's considerable talents to the attention of executives at Capitol Records, which in turn led to her critically praised debut, Jukebox Sparrows, in 2002. On the album, she was accompanied by several notable studio veterans including Jim Keltner, James Gadson, and Greg Leisz.

A summer tour supporting John Mellencamp also helped raise McNally's profile, as did the release of Ran on Pure Lightning, a collaborative EP with songwriter Neal Casal.

Over the next few years, she maintained a prolific output, recording both for independent and major labels. After 2004's Run for Cover, McNally signed with the Universal-affiliated Back Porch imprint and released Geronimo (2005) and North American Ghost Music (2006). By this point, she had relocated from New York to New Orleans, immersing herself in the influence of the South.

Following a tour and collaboration with Son Volt, McNally took most of 2008 off to give birth to her daughter. She resumed touring in 2009, joining Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women for a spell, then self-released the full-length Coldwater with her band Hot Sauce.

In early 2011, McNally issued the stellar Western Ballad (on her Sacred Sumac imprint), which continued to reflect the influences of traditional folk, classic blues, blues-rock, and country. Recorded during a difficult period while enduring a divorce and nursing her terminally ill mother in Mississippi, 2013's Small Town Talk (Songs of Bobby Charles) proved to be another career highlight. A tribute to friend and noted influence Bobby Charles, she was joined on the album by heavy-hitters like Dr. John, Derek Trucks, Luther Dickinson, and Vince Gill, among others.

After her mother passed away in 2015, McNally reconnect with her friend Rodney Crowell, who helped co-write and produce her 2017 effort Black Irish. Her debut for the Compass label, the album was recorded in Nashville, but its distinctive sense of place lay 210 miles west, where Memphis meets Mississippi. A stint in Terry Allen's Panhandle Mystery Band was followed in 2021 by the release of The Waylon Sessions, another tribute, this time to the great Texas outlaw singer Waylon Jennings.

(provided by Allmusic)