Review by Fred Rudofsky
A cold beverage (okay, make that two), heavenly Southern food served by an angel named Elesha, and the sounds of Shannon McNally & Smoke Signals on a Friday night at Club Helsinki in Hudson – it was a winning trifecta for the mind, body and soul.
McNally’s latest album, Small Town Talk (The Songs of Bobby Charles), took a few years to get a proper release, but it has lived up to the expectations that come with covering a legendary songwriter. Performed live, these songs felt like old friends coming to visit with stories to tell of mischief, heartbreak and resiliency. Dressed fetchingly in a black blazer, short skirt and high heels, McNally and her bandmates – husband Wallace Lester (drums), Will Sexton (guitar), Jake Fussell (bass) and Matt Hubbard (keyboards, trombone and harmonica) – mesmerized the audience from the start. Her astounding vocal command and candid, often funny stories about working with Bobby Charles and Dr. John were just part of the story. For two hours, the “world boogie” groove – as her mentor, the late Jim Dickinson, would put it – held sway.