Shannon McNally has a timeless, smoke-tinged voice that straddles soul and country genres. She’s no stranger to the valley, having performed here with her band before. During her career she has opened for Stevie Nicks and Ryan Adams, toured with John Mellencamp and Son Volt, but it’s a less-recognizable name that’s on her lips lately. Her latest album, “Small Town Talk,” pays tribute to Bobby Charles, the man behind hits like “See you Later Alligator” and “But I Do.” McNally refers to Charles as “great, but under-appreciated.”
She recorded the album with New Orleans music legend Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack. It was recorded with Charles’ approval and input before his death, offering a posthumous tribute to his career. McNally and Dr. John consulted with Charles before choosing a group of songs that give a broad overview of Charles’ work. McNally’s dark, probing vocals are paired with Dr. John’s sure-handed arrangements on the album.
The inspiration for “Small Town Talk” came from the self-titled album Charles recorded in Woodstock with members of The Band. McNally’s love for that record led her to tell Charles she wanted to revisit it.
“Those songs oriented me musically,” McNally said. “I had so devoured everything that The Band did that finding Bobby was almost a relief. That crowd of musicians had a way of making music that got under my skin in a nagging kind of way.”
McNally performs in Vail on Tuesday night. She took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: How did you come up with the album title?
Shannon McNally: It’s a song title from the album. It also sums up the sentiment of the music well.
VD: Tell me about the special guests you worked with who make appearances on the album?
SM: They’re all guitar players with the exception of Mickey Raphael, who plays harmonica on the title track “Small Town Talk.” Derek Trucks plays the revelation part on “Cowboy’s and Indians.” Vince Gill stepped in for Jango Reinhardt on “But I Do” and also sings an achingly moving duet with me on “String of Hearts.” Luther Dickenson, from the North Mississippi Allstars, plays the boogie woogie part on “Can’t Pin A Color” and Will Sexton added the silver shimmery guitar solo duet to “Homemade Songs.”
VD: For fans who haven’t heard you sing before, describe what a Shannon McNally show is like.
SM: A Shannon McNally show moves along at a steady clip but doesn’t rush. It’s ultimate aim is to join the listener in a joyful moment of sound.
VD: What do you like or dislike about performing in our area?
SM: There’s not much to dislike about Vail. I don’t ski, but the air smells good and people come out to have a good time.