Shannon McNally

North American Ghost Music (Back Porch)

Like Lucinda Williams, to whom she's frequently compared, Shannon McNally packs a wallop of a vocal — a tough, tenacious delivery that's equally adept at conveying both pain and poignancy. McNally's latest album — a live showcase for a signature style she's dubbed "North American Ghost Music" — emphasizes a sinewy, sensuous approach that veers from haunting intimacy to beguiling seduction. McNally's music shares a similar stance with that of Chris Isaak or Sheryl Crow, elusive at times but anchored with a solid instrumental undercarriage that effectively channels the music's languid drift. Her ravaged, world-weary cover of "The Last Lonely Eagle" bears a plaintive, hollow-eyed appeal only hinted at in the New Riders of the Purple Sage's ageless original. Likewise the slow, sprawling take on Willie Nelson's "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" suggests a meditative stance that could have added implications, given the heights of Brokeback Mountainmania. McNally's originals are no less compelling, particularly the more rhythmically robust "Down and Dirty," given a come-on many might find all but irresistible: "I love you when you're down and dirty."

 
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