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Soulful Sounds From A Delta Lady: The Shannon McNally Interview

Soulful Sounds From A Delta Lady
The Shannon McNally Interview

by James Calemine

Born in New York, Shannon McNally began singing in clubs at an early age. Her hypnotic voice proves unforgettable. Soon she fell in musical company with the likes of John Hiatt, Dr. John, Charlie Sexton and Jim Dickinson. Shannon now lives in Mississippi. With each year, her musical stature seems to increase. She's now on the road with her band Hot Sauce, touring behind her newest studio album Coldwater.

In this Swampland interview we discuss her past, present and future musical on goings. She was in Texas when we conducted this interview last week. I look forward to our ongoing series with the soulful and graceful Shannon McNally.

Shannon McNally: Hey James! How are ya?

James Calemine: Mighty fine. You ready to go? You’ve worked with a lot of great artists, and I’ll name just a few: John Hiatt, Dr. John, and Victoria Williams…

SM: Yeah, that Vic thing was a long time ago. I sang on a John Hiatt record.

JC: You’ve worked with Charlie Sexton, and once again, he’s back in Bob Dylan’s band.

SM: I’ve done quite a bit with Charlie—aside from Dr. John—everyone else you mentioned I’ve done session work, but I’ve worked extensively with Charlie.

JC: You sang on Jim Dickinson’s Killers From Space record. Is that how your relationship with the Dickinsons started?

SM: No, that came afterwards. I had reached out to Jim to do the follow up to Geronimo just after Hurricane Katrina because we ended up in Oxford. Katrina put us there. So, I just sent him a letter to say hello and to see if we could work together in the future. I cut a whole record with Jim that didn’t come out. It didn’t make it through all the downsizing at EMI. So that was very disappointing of course. Then I did more sessions and various things as well as singing on his record. Last April we went back into Zebra Ranch and cut Coldwater.

JC: You also sang on Luther Dickinson’s tribute album to Jim Onward and Upward

SM: Yes, the record they did for Jim’s passing. Luther and I have written a song together called “If Ever I Loved You”. It’s going to be available sometime soon probably as a download on my site.

JC: Coldwater is your fifth studio record. I know there’s a live one and an EP…

SM: Eight releases—Coldwater is my fifth full-length studio release. I had two records—one I did with Jim Dickinson and one with Dr. John—neither one was released. I can’t say if the one I did with Jim will see the light of day, but it’s hard to say. The one with Dr. John I hope will come out. It was all Bobby Charles songs. It’s hard to say, but I think they’ll come out eventually. I hope so.

JC: Coldwater was recorded at Zebra Ranch from March 16-April 10, 2009?

SM: Actually, it was a two-day record. We recorded on those two dates. It should have been a comma, not a dash between those two dates (in the liner notes).

JC: It definitely contains the Jim Dickinson Zebra Ranch mojo…

SM: Yes, it does.

JC: How long have you been together with Hot Sauce?

SM: Actually, the band on the record—we’ve been playing together for about three years. I just thought, ‘I gotta get these guys on tape.' I didn’t have a record label or anything and I was dealing with a limited budget, but I didn’t quite know exactly…I knew I had to get the band recorded at that minute. I didn’t really realize I was going to end up releasing it myself. I thought it was going to be a full record. When we were finished it sounded really good and I couldn’t see any reason not to release it myself. Although I was daunted by the notion of doing…

JC: You’ve got a lot of dates coming up…

SM: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of dates in Texas. We’re in Texas now. We just did a week in Texas and we’re about to do another week. We’ll be in Austin tomorrow night—Tuesday night. And then we go to West Texas. We just did Houston, Dallas and a couple of shows in Austin. We hit the perimeter of SXSW. I did dive in a little to SXSW.

JC: I’m sure you’ll want to keep the pushing Coldwater for the rest of the year…

SM: Oh yeah. I do want to push it for the rest of the year because its really kind of picking up steam. Nothing overwhelming, but it’s moving along. Honestly, I was daunted at the idea of putting it out myself, but now I feel like I’m getting the hang out it. I’m just rolling with it. I would like to get in and cut another record…

JC: I’m sure you’ve been writing songs through the process of Coldwater being packaged and everything.

SM: For sure. I would love to get in and do another one. Now it’s a matter of time. I want to let this one run its course.

JC: I think Coldwater is going to make the future easier on you…

SM: I think so. I’ve been looking at this as kind of…I’m out here in Texas, and we haven’t been on the road as a band in a long time. I’ve been doing all these solo acoustic shows as much out of necessity as artistic vision. I’ve really liked being able to turn up the volume and I’ve been playing more lead guitar. I’m just really enjoying being in a band right now.

JC: Anything else on your horizon folks need to know about?

SM: Right now we’re just on the road getting back into the rock scene and the clubs—turning up the volume and waiting to see what happens. At this point I’ve sort of orchestrated what I can orchestrate and from here we’ll see if it catches.

JC: We’ll always keep you in the rotation here at Swampland. You know I got Jim Dickinson to write a couple of articles for Swampland. I extend that invitation to you if you’re willin’…

SM: Well, now that you say that James—I don’t know if you have any need or interest for it, but put it in the back of your hat—I do a fair amount of writing and would you be interested in an article about what it’s like to be a rock and roll mom? I do all of this with a baby on the road. It’s pretty interesting. It’s a boys world out there, but there are some women out there doing it with a baby. I’d be happy to contribute if you think that would appeal to your readers. It adds a whole other dynamic to the road.

JC: Well, I’m ready when you are…

SM: Good deal.

The Six Degrees of Swampland: The Dickinson Family

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