By James Calemine

Recorded in two days at Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Studios during the spring of 2009, Shannon McNally’s Coldwater defines her incredible talent. McNally has worked and recorded with John Hiatt, Victoria Williams, Dr. John, Charlie Sexton, Grayson Capps, Luther and Jim Dickinson to name a few. Her hypnotic voice, songwriting and guitar playing render her a memorable force.

Coldwater counts as her fifth full-length studio album. The writer Jim Harrison penned a few liner notes for the CD. Jim Dickinson played keyboards on this album. The band: Wallace Lester on drums, Jacob Fussell on bass and Eric Deaton on guitar sound like a cohesive unit, which allows McNally to take her songwriting and live shows to another level. McNally recently told this writer about the dynamic surrounding the eight songs on Coldwater:

“I’ve played with this band 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 knew I had to get the band recorded at that minute. I didn’t realize I was going to end up releasing it myself. We got done with it and it sounded really good and I couldn’t see any reason not to release it myself, which I was daunted by that notion.”

Coldwater opens with an original McNally composition “This Ain’t My Home”. Her beautiful voice retains an ageless wisdom that makes her words easy to hear. This laid-back tone sets the medicinal mood of this CD. Another original, “Jack B. Nimble”, a country-bar Dylan-esque number should go over well to any live audience.

Her rendition of Steve Young’s “Lonesome, Ornery And Mean”, via Waylon Jennings, indicates her ability to give an old song new life, and this version sounds outstanding. “Lovely” captures McNally’s essence. This song serves as the album’s centerpiece tune. A fantastic country gypsy element exists in “Bohemian Wedding Song”–another diamond McNally original. Just those two songs will buy this talented songwriter some time…

McNally’s flawless version of Bill Hoover’s “Freedom To Stay” (another great Waylon Jennings cover) makes it hard not to just fall to your knees…her powers operate at their zenith. “Bolder Than Paradise” continues the atmospheric landscape of the album, but somehow this song operates as a dark horse…working its magic after multiple rotations. The final cut, Bob Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” emits a quality that can only really be heard.

Read my interview with Shannon McNally in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2