By James Calemine
Western Ballad, Shannon McNally’s sixth studio album, was recorded in New Orleans. McNally’s 2009 release, Coldwater, was produced by the late Jim Dickinson at his Zebra Ranch Studios. The Western Ballad opener, “Memory of A Ghost”, casts a lush sonic landscape with traces of Daniel Lanois production qualities that continue throughout this 11 song collection.
“High” evokes a night scape sound streaming across a vast plain, while McNally’s sultry voice hooks the listener with her lyrics. The title track’s hypnotic effect proves why McNally’s talents are lauded by Dr. John, John Hiatt, Warren Haynes, Jim Dickinson and the North Mississippi Allstars. Words from “Western Ballad” originate from a Allen Ginsberg poem. “True Possession” contains a country twang that swings in a way live audiences will love.
“Tristesse Oubilee” travels to Cajun country, right down to the French lyrics. McNally co-wrote these songs with songwriter Mark Bingham. “Thunderhead” showcases the pure vocal talents of McNally. “Rock and Roll Angels”, a barroom ballad, raises a glass to those souls lost in smoky cantinas and lonely dives. The traditional “Little Stream of Whiskey” reminds one of a New Orleans parade that brings a smile to a loved one’s face. The final track, “In My Own Second Line”, emerges as a melancholy tune that creates a peaceful trance on the listener.
Western Ballad proves–like all of her releases–Shannon McNally’s talent is impossible to ignore.