Thanks to the good folks at Bearsville Theater and Radio Woodstock, the deeply soulful sounds of Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce made a Monday night – a school night for this reviewer – feel like the weekend party of the autumn. The price of admission was free, and the good times that followed for avid music lovers, priceless.
Backed by her husband Wallace Lester (drums), Benjamin Todd (electric bass/harmony vocals) and Will Sexton (guitar/harmony vocals), McNally played two sets that showcased her extraordinary voice, engaging and often poetic songs, and exuberant guitar playing. The highlights were many.
Opening with the haunting tale of “Jack B. Nimble” and outlaw swagger of Steve Young’s “Lonesome, Ornery and Mean” from her 2009 gem, “Coldwater,” McNally established that the full range of human experience would get sonic exploration. Julie Miller’s “All My Tears” – a testimony to holding fast to faith in redemption and an after-life – evolved from a slow tempo to a military march of affirmation (“All my tears’ll be washed away”).
A trio of songs from McNally’s superb new album, “Western Ballad,” made a strong impression: “Memory of a Ghost” was wistfulness incarnate, replete with dazzling guitar interplay; “Thunderhead” delved into the electric anticipation of motherhood with a funky cadence set by Lester; and “High,” one of the best songs of 2011, channeled the psychedelic vibes of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” in wryly recounting a night when McNally caught a memorable set by Gov’t Mule (“Arrived like a forest fire/ it burned by design/ I was just a little bit high”) at its annual Mountain Jam Festival in the Catskills.
After a brief intermission, the band returned for a second set that took the crowd to the next level. A medley of “The Hard Way” (from “Geronimo”) and Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train” transformed the barroom into a world boogie dance floor, as the late Jim Dickinson, a dear friend of McNally, would have put it. A slew of dancers stayed on the floor for an irresistible “This Ain’t My Home,” with the rhythm section totally in the pocket as McNally’s
sultry voice growled the blues and Sexton’s finger-picked solos answered back with gusto. “Sweet Forgiveness,” “Bohemian Wedding Song” and “Lovely” were hypnotic wonders of restraint, filling the room with passionate lyrics and the energy of a band at its telepathic best.
After recounting the joys of hearing late night radio in Mississippi, McNally showed great taste in dialing up Bobby “Blue” Bland’s classic “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” singing with deep soul and inspiring some fine solos by Sexton, who showed the influence of Wayne Bennett and Gatemouth Brown in tone and attack, respectively. With a groove that Rick
Danko and Levon Helm would’ve applauded, Todd and Lester anchored the rhythm of “Down and Dirty” (from “Jukebox Sparrow”) and let McNally do her thing, testifying to the pleasures of life and firing off some wild guitar riffs with Sexton in a jam that left the musicians partially obscured by the fervent crowd of dancers, who eventually shouted for more as McNally began to make her way off stage as the song faded out.
She came back for two spirited songs: a deep country confessional original, “Now That I Know”, and Bob Dylan’s satirical look at how romantic ties can bind in “She Belongs to Me,” the latter featuring some powerful guitar by McNally that evoked the sassy tones of Jimi Hendrix. After the show, the band graciously signed CDs, LPs and silk-screened posters, catching up with old friends and making dozens of new ones.
Do yourself a favor: take a group of friends to catch Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce at Club Helsinki in Hudson at 8pm on Saturday (October 29). Tix are $15 in advance; $18 at the door. Chances are you will hear one of the best shows of the year, as the Bearsville revelers will attest. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Review by Fred Rudofsky
SHANNON McNALLY & HOT SAUCE SET LIST
Jack B. Nimble
Lonesome, Ornery and Mean
All My Tears
The Worst Part of a Broken Heart
Memory of a Ghost
The Hard Way > Mystery Train
This Ain’t My Home
Bohemian Wedding Dress
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
Down and Dirty
Now that I Know
She Belongs to Me