[23 February 2011]
Last I checked in with Shannon McNally, she was an engaging live performer who wasn’t quite getting that spark into the grooves of some promising and diverse records. That was quite a few years ago, and it sounds like it might be time to dive back into her catalog to see what she’s been up to. Western Ballad is an accomplished and satisfying record. Recorded at New Orleans’ Piety Street Recording, Ballad finds McNally teaming with Mark Bingham for a shimmery record that swings from a bayou waltz (“Tristesse Oubliée”) to ramblin’ country piano (“True Possession”) to rock (“Thunderhead”) to heartfelt ballad (the showstopping “In My Own Second Line”) and several points in between. McNally’s languid vocals give even the tensest of tales (such as the life in “Rock and Roll Angels” that’s described as being “like the Book of Job in 3/4 time”) a loose, organic feel. Western Ballad creates a gentle current that pulls you along, and it’s a pleasure to relax and see where it takes you.