On Stage (Bonus): Shannon McNally celebrates Americana

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Shannon McNally

Wednesday is often called “Hump Day” – the mid-point of the work week.

For many, Wednesday night is a night to celebrate moving closer to the weekend.

If you’re looking for a good concert to cap off a good “Hump Day,” you’re really in luck on May 10.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will welcome Shannon McNally’s long-awaited return to the area on May 10.

McNally is touring in support of her new album “Black Irish,” which will be released on June 9 on Compass Records.

“I’m really happy to be with Compass Records,” said McNally, during a phone interview Monday afternoon as she travelled north on the New Jersey Turnpike to a gig in New York City.

“They’re right on Music Row in Nashville and the last of the privately-owned independent labels. They do a lot of Americana so I was happy when they came on board.

“I definitely think my music is Americana – or you could call it American roots music – blues, soul, country and some that’s more like pop music.

“I recorded ‘Black Irish’ in Nashville in 2016 with Rodney Crowell as my producer. We recorded some of it at his studio and some at other studios in Nashville, including Sound Emporium. We had about a half-dozen recording sessions.

“Rodney found me some years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. This is his first time to produce me but I sang on his record ‘Famous Last Words of a Fool.’ (from his “Tarpaper Sky” album in 2014).”

The lead track on the McNally’s new album – “You Made Me Feel For You” — was written Crowell, and serves as a metaphor for their collaboration.

According to Crowell, “I first heard of Shannon McNally through John Leventhal, who described her vocal skills as having just the right amount of girlish smoke. At the time, I was looking for just the right singer to make a cameo appearance on a song I was recording called ‘Famous Last Words of a Fool.’

“Trusting John’s appraisal — from his description I imagined something of a cross between Joan Jett and Lauren Bacall — I set about tracking the mystery singer down.

“What I eventually discovered in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi was this dark-eyed beauty who wrote grownup songs, played a pretty mean Fender Stratocaster and, at times, sounded a lot Jesse Mae Hemphill.

“From our first meeting, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was the right man for the job of shepherding the next Shannon McNally record into existence. Now that the record is made, I hope music lovers around the world will come to know what I and many others already know — this girl belongs in the Americana Music spotlight.”

The album concept began in 2013 when McNally was going through what she calls “a miserable divorce,” raising her daughter Maeve, and nursing her terminally ill mother Maureen. Her parents had relocated to Holly Springs, Mississippi, and McNally moved in, caring for her mom until her death in 2015.

“Working with Rodney was pretty inspiring,” said McNally, who spent time in this area years ago getting a degree from the College of Anthropology at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

“I wanted to write songs that he thought were good. My sings for the album were building up and Rodney wrote a few.”

McNally co-wrote three of the album’s 12 songs — one with Crowell, who also penned two more for her. The rest include her personal favorites by Stevie Wonder (“I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It”), Robbie Robertson (“It Makes No Difference”), and J.J. Cale (“Low Rider”).

Today, McNally makes her home in the Mississippi hill country which she calls “the most Southern place on earth.,” Her musical journey began in New York, where she was born on St. Patrick’s Day and raised in Hempstead, Long Island. Growing up in the age of ‘80s MTV-pop, she found an escape route.

McNally became a performing singer/songwriter/guitarist in college and eventually signed with Capitol Records. After some time in Los Angeles, she moved to New Orleans soaking up that city’s music. Later, she moved to North Mississippi.

“I live on Oxford, Mississippi,” said McNally. “Hurricane Katrina picked Oxford for me – and I’m happy here.

“Mississippi, Memphis and New Orleans are places that never really leave you. There’s a depth. Bringing all those experiences with you – essentially all the places and things along with big life moments that form you.

“These places are real great, greasy, soulful, historically-challenges places. They light a fire – and they bring the honesty. They all were a part of my new album which I guess you could say is the bluesiest album I’ve ever made.

“I’m pretty much playing the whole record in my shows now. I’m touring as a duet with Brett Hughes, a singer and guitarist from Burlington, Vermont. We’re also playing a lot of songs from my previous albums.”

Video link for Shannon McNally – https://youtu.be/iwVDwO2N644.

The show at Ardmore Music Hall, which has John Francis as the opener, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.

The Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) will have a show featuring two young bands representing the best of both coasts –

The Family Crest

The Family Crest, an American orchestral indie rock band from San Francisco, and OhBree, a Philly band playing a hometown gig.

The Family Crest features Liam McCormick, Voice and Guitar; John Seeterlin, Bass; Charlie Giesige, Drums, Percussion; Laura Bergmann, Flute, Percussion, Voice; George Mousa Samaan, Trombone; Charly Akert, Cello; and Owen Sutter, Violin.

The brainchild of McCormick, The Family Crest was started as a recording project in 2009 with co-founder John Seeterlin.

“We started out six or seven years as a recording process,” said McCormick, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Round Rock, Texas.

“We were finishing up playing with another group and we wanted to make something we could be proud of. We got musicians together and it turned out to be a lot more than we expected.

“It’s been an ongoing collaborative thing ever since. We were doing shows around the (San Francisco) Bay area and did residencies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.”

According to McCormick, “We always liked making music with people — getting a bunch of people together and singing. So, we put ads everywhere. We posted on Craigslist and emailed old friends from school.

“We’ve worked with a lot of conservatory students as well as people who just sing in the shower. It became a lot about giving these people a chance to express themselves without being locked into a commitment.”

The outcome was greater than the original duo imagined, with 80 people credited on the first recording the band produced. From that a band emerged, at the urging of the guest musicians, who wanted to hear the songs performed live.

The result was a seven-piece core band boasting over 400 “Extended Family” members who have contributed to the music.

The Family Crest’s most recent album “Beneath the Brine,” which came out in 2014, is a musical buffet that features huge array of instruments including bassoon, vibraphone and French horn.

A few weeks ago, the band released a new EP titled “Prelude to War.”

“It’s actually a prelude to an upcoming project we have called ‘War,’” said McCormick. “We started writing it after the release of our album ‘The Village’ in 2012.

“‘Beneath the Brine’ was supposed to be an EP but it spiraled out of control and became an album. We’ve been working on ‘War’ for the last few years. It’s a very long project.

“When John and I started the group, we taught ourselves what to do. Even now, out of necessity and artistic reasoning, we do everything ourselves.

“We have a mobile rig. We did a headline tour about two years ago and recorded a lot of the shows – done specifically for recording and filming. We also do on-the-road recording with other artists.”

“Mirror Love” is the first single released from the new EP.

“The song ‘Mirror Love’ was written about people talking about their representative self. We play it in our current show along with other tracks from the new EP, some newer songs and some older stuff.”

Video link for The Family Crest – https://youtu.be/0zUpZKHy6N8.

OhBree

In mid-May, OhBree will be releasing its third full length record, “Burn Bridges, Burn Pies,” an album that will serve to connect the worlds of the band’s previous releases.

OhBree’s first album, “We Miss You Edward, Come Home,” was a bizarre pit-orchestra-influenced assemblage of 17 songs that manifested in a lighthearted theatrical head trip.

The group’s second LP, “Death By Broomstick,” took a much darker spin on the band’s pop sensibilities. Soon after the release of “Death By Broomstick,” OhBree released a well-received EP called “Feed Me Poison.”

Like The Family Crest, OhBree is a large ensemble of indie rock musicians.

OhBree’s line-up features Andrew Scott (vocals/keys), Adam Laub (drums), Bob Iacono (trumpet), Tyler Mack (trombone/guitar), Lucas Kozinski (guitar), Kyle Press (saxophone), Michael Aherne (bass), and Connor Przybyszewski (trombone).

“We’ve been together for a while now,” said Scott, during a phone interview last week from his home in Boston, Massachusetts. “We started playing together in 2010.

“We were all students at Drexel University studying different aspects of the music business. I was a music industry major.

“I actually started writing music on my own in my sophomore year in college. We all got a house together in a row home in West Philly. We made one of the rooms into a small studio.

“I spent time in the studio writing songs. Then, I taught the songs to the guys and we began playing live shows. It all clicked.

“The first thing we did was make a full-length called ‘Bleed Safety Trim Line Fold.’ It was pretty different than what we’re doing now with a lot more synths and less horns.”

That album was more a demo than a real release.

“Some of the songs got re-done later,” said Scott. “‘We Miss You Edward, Come Home’ was the first real full-length that we did back in 2011. We did really good songwriting and we were cranking out songs in our home studio.

“‘Death By Broomstick’ came out in 2014 and the music had changed – drastically changed. The first record was silly and Monty Python-esque. It didn’t have the happiness and silliness of the first record.

“With ‘Death,’ I wasn’t in one of my best places ever. With this record, I ended up going deeper into myself and singing about darker characters.

“On ‘Poison,’ we wrote a whole bunch of songs about death. I wanted to keep it silly and keep it darker. With ‘Burn Bridges, Burn Pies,’ I didn’t want to continue the darker part – but I wanted to keep the Philly sarcasm.”

According to Scott, “‘Burn Bridges Burn Pies’ is the record that brings our message together. The themes remain dark, but we bring back the Monty Python/Dr. Seussian absurdity of our first record.”

“Burn Bridges, Burn Pies” will be released digitally and on beautiful blue vinyl records featuring the art of Debbie Fong on May 19.

Video link for OhBree – https://youtu.be/eR1NvmBi420.

The show at Boot & Saddle will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com) on May 10 will feature a band from Detroit called ADULT.

ADULT.

ADULT. is a duo featuring Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller. They played their first live show together in Germany in 1997 under the name Artificial Material.

In early 1998, they released their first 12-inch under the name Plasma Co. Later that year, they released their first 12-inch under the name ADULT.

Currently, they have released six albums and 19 EPs or singles on Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey and Clone Records, as well as on their own label Ersatz Audio. They have remixed over 20 acts as well, including Tuxedomoon, John Foxx, Death in Vegas and Pet Shop Boys.

The two veteran musicians are also multimedia artists.

Kuperus and Miller make sculpture, paintings, films, photographs, performances, videos and installations. They strive to intersect the lines between art and audio and have exhibited their work at institutions such as the Austrian Cultural Forum (New York), MOMAS (Saitama, Japan), and Centre d’art contemporain de Meymac (France).

They have shown their film “The Three Grace(s)” triptych at spaces such as Anthology Film Archives (New York), Distrital Film Festival (Mexico City), and Grey Area for Art and Technology (San Francisco).

Now, the duo is touring in support of its new album “Detroit House Guests.”

“Detroit House Guests” is a collaborative project conceived by ADULT. Based on the visual artist residency model, each musician came to ADULT.’s studio for a three-week period with the parameter that they all live, work and collaborate together.

The result was a total anthropological sound experiment and a full-length album.

The album features collaborations with a whole host of musicians and artists — Douglas J McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb, Michael Gira from Swans, Shannon Funchess from Light Asylum, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe aka Lichens, Austrian thereminist Dorit Chrysler and multidisciplinary artist Lun*na Menoh.

“For over a decade, we’d see friends on the road like Douglas and say – we wish we could hang out more,” said Miller, during a phone interview last week as they travelled from Austin, Texas to a gig in Dallas, Texas.

“We were always like two ships passing in the night. So, we decided to do a project where we could hang out and collaborate. Three years ago, a foundation came to Detroit and was offering grants. We applied for a grant and we got it.”

ADULT.’s manifesto for the project stated, “Let us explore new modes of music making. Let us take the intensity of the studio session and drop it into the home. If the “avant-garde” is thought to be un-domestic then what impact does this domestic situation have on the shape and sound of our project?

“Can the radical even exist inside the domestic? It’s so private in the home. How vulnerable are we? Are the shades down and the curtains drawn? Can we become out of order? A rug turned at a slight angle, resisting not to straighten it as you pass by.

“The merger of soft and dark sides, melodic voices and angular jabs, organic and pre-programmed, dinner parties and carry out. A dislocated and disjointed dance.”

The duo successfully turned the concept into relaity.

“All the artists had to be touring musicians who were adaptable – vocalists and songwriters – different criteria like that,” said Kuperus. “We picked the artists and they all agreed.

“The residencies were held in downtown Detroit. The first was with Douglas McCarthy two years ago. It took a year for other artists to fit it in their schedules. Then, Mute Records came along and picked the record up.”

With such varied input on the album, recreating the disc live is an almost impossible task.

“We’re only able to perform a couple songs from the album,” said Miller. “This is the 20th anniversary of us playing live so we wanted to assess our career. We looked at every album we did – 120 songs in 20 years. We tried to pick something from each album.

“We wanted songs that were energetic so some songs didn’t work. Our live set gets ugly and aggressive in the middle. But, our songs are more universal in nature than political.

“When choosing the songs, we went all the way back to our first album. It’s fun to bring back old songs and re-work them. For the current shows, it’s just the two of us. Nicola only does vocals and I play the electronics.”

Video link for ADULT. – https://youtu.be/MBOXBE9V5Zo.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Ritual Howls and Void Vision as opening acts, will start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

On May 10, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host the North Mississippi Allstars’ “The Prayer For Peace Tour,” which also features Alvin Youngblood Heart and Rev. Sekou.

Rev. Sekou

Rev. Sekou is touring in support of his debut album “In Times Like These,” which was just released on May 5.

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is an author, documentary filmmaker, public intellectual, organizer, pastor and theologian.

He is the Pastor for Formation and Justice at The First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain. Raised in the rural Arkansas Delta, he is a third-generation ordained Elder in the Church of God in Christ (Pentecostal).

Considered one of the foremost religious leaders of his generation, Rev. Sekou published a collection of writings titled “Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Race, Religion, and the Future of Democracy.”

His book, “Riot Music: Race, Hip Hop, and the Meaning of the London Riots” is based on his exclusive interviews in the aftermath of the 2011 riots that swept the United Kingdom.

To make his debut album, “In Times Like These,” Rev. Osagyefo Sekou went back to his Southern home searching for his family’s musical roots in the deep Arkansas blues and gospel traditions.

Produced by six-time Grammy nominated Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, featuring Luther’s brother Cody Dickinson, and supported by Thirty Tigers, Rev. Sekou’s debut solo album is a new vision for what Southern blues and rock can mean today.

“In Times Like These” is drenched with the sweat and tears of the Mississippi River, the great tributary that ties so much of the South together.

The album’s sonic landscape captures the toil of Southern field hands, the guttural cry of chain gangs, the vibrancy of contemporary street protest, backwoods juke joints, and shotgun churches — all saturated with Pentecostal sacred steel and soul legacy.

“The record label 30 Tigers approached me,” said Rev. Sekou, during a phone interview last week from a stop in New York.

“They had heard my first record ‘Revolution Will Come.’ They suggested Luther Dickinson as a producer. I was inspired by him and his musical family.

“I went to Memphis to see Luther perform. It was a great show. I appreciated his spirit. They have a great family – Luther, his brother Cody Dickinson and their deceased father. It felt like a comfortable fit – and we’re from the same region of the world.”

Rev. Sekou delves into hip hop, religion, homophobia, sexism, race, and politics with organic insight.

 “Resist,” which is the opening song, of “In Times Like These,” opens with a rousing speech given by Rev. Sekou at a rally in Ferguson, Missouri, protesting the shooting of Michael Brown.

The album was written in the shadow of the divisive 2016 presidential election, and is testament to the enduring power of protest music and a call-to-arms for a new generation looking to resist.

“The task of artists in this time – with music – is to provide people with inspiration so they can live to fight another day,” said Rev. Sekou.

“I sing, preach and write about black people in the American experience. You sing about what you believe.”

Video link for Rev. Sekou – https://youtu.be/JVufn1twZhA.

The show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) featuring the North Mississippi Allstars, Alvin Youngblood Heart and Rev. Sekou, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $30.

LANY

Lancaster will also be a good destination for music fans on May 10 with LANY at the Chameleon Club and Richie Kotzen at Tellus 360.

LANY, which is headlining an all-ages show at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net), is a bit of a modern-day phenomenon – a phenomenon brought to life by the digital age.

The LA-based trio — Paul Klein, Les Priest and Jake Goss — has amassed a huge live fanbase and last year alone played a total of 117 shows across twelve countries, selling over 35,000 tickets.

With 3.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify and combined streams of 92 million, LANY is the most streamed artist of all time through the Spotify Discover feature.  The band’s single “ILYSB” (i love you so bad) also holds the title of the most-streamed song of all time through Spotify Disco.

These are impressive statistics – especially considering the band has yet to release an album.

LANY’s eagerly-awaited debut album will be released on Interscope Records on June 30. The self-titled album features 16 tracks – including their global streaming hit “ILYSB.”

“We started this tour in February in Sydney, Australia,” said Klein, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Milwaukee. “We did a lap around the world and now we’re in the U.S. We’ve toured Europe, Australia, North America and Asia.

“It does surprise me that we’re able to tour the world without an album. It’s an indication of the power of the internet.

“If you can write songs that are good enough to connect, this is what can happen. It’s an exciting time to be making music. I don’t know they did it before the internet.”

LANY has found a niche with its music — beautiful songs with swashes of synth, spare percussion, echoes of prime 1980s FM pop, of early-1990s R&B, of new-wave electronica — love songs that combine melody and lyrics that hot home with listeners in their heads and their hearts.

Klein offered his thoughts about the universal appeal of LANY’s music.

“I like to think of us as a breath of fresh air,” said Klein. “There are thousands of bands making the same song in 2017 – big production with vocals. On the other hand, we started out with our own sound – and we’re still around.

“I believe that content is king. There is an emphasis on singles in the music world right now but I believe that the album is invaluable – and irreplaceable. I believe in the grand scheme of things. The pendulum will settle and come back to center.

“This album will be massively important for us. It’s a body of work. It took us 15 months to do the 16 tracks – mainly because we’ve been on the road non-stop. We will will play more than 150 shows this year.

“We did 117 shows last year. Every song we wrote during that time was written for the purpose of being on our debut album. We wrote all the songs and produced and mixed everything ourselves. That’s why the album is so cohesive.”

Video link for LANY — https://youtu.be/SSTp0rknOgA.

The all-ages show at the Chameleon, which has goody grace as the opener, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen, who will headline the show at Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) on May 10, is one of the most respected guitarists in American rock.

Kotzen released his new solo album, “Salting Earth,” on April 14 on his own label — Headroom Inc. Now, he is on tour in support of the new disc.

Performing in Lancaster is almost a hometown show for Kotzen. Now living in Malibu, California, he was born and raised in the Reading area and graduated from Daniel Boone High School in Birdsboro.

Kotzen recorded his first solo album when he was 19. In 1991, when he was just 21, he joined glam-metal band Poison.

He co-wrote and played on the Poison album “Native Tongue,” which featured two Top 20 singles which Kotzen co-wrote – “Stand” and “Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice).”

In 1999, Kotzen took over as guitarist in the mainstream rock band Mr. Big. Since 2013, he has been a member of the rock supergroup The Winery Dogs with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan.

“I really love Billy and Mike and really love those two records,” said Kotzen, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Michigan.

“But, being in a band is a fragile relationship – especially for someone like me. My life doesn’t revolve around being in a band. The majority of my work has been as a soloist.

“Being in a band is fun but I never intend for it to be full-time. That doesn’t mean no more Winery Dogs. The Dogs are sleeping – but they’ll be back.”

The Winery Dogs are on hiatus and Kotzen is focusing once again on being a solo artist – and playing live shows to support his new album “Salting Earth.”

“I like the record because – for me – it encompasses what I do as a recording artist,” said Kotzen, who has recorded more than 20 albums over the last 18 years.

“It shows my influences from the Who and Bad Company to Prince and Stevie Wonder. And, occasionally I get into a jazzy fusion thing. The cool thing about this record – it shows what I can do as a recording artist.

“It was recorded over the course of many years. The song ‘Make It Easy’ was recorded all the way back in 2003. When I was working on newer stuff, I went and listened to older things. I heard this and thought it was great with lyrics.

“Some tracks have been ready to go for nine years. The song ‘Thunder’ is from 2001 – with the original guitar solo. Other songs like ‘This Is Life’ and ‘Divine Power’ are brand new.

“Because I have my own studio, I don’t set aside recording time. That’s the luxury of having a studio in your house. I made my previous album ‘Cannibals’ the same way.”

According to Kotzen, “My real outlet is touring — playing live as much as I can, wherever I can, whenever I can. It’s one of the few things you can’t copy, steal or download.

“It’s an engaging human experience that’s a give-and-take between both the performer and the audience, and there is nothing else like it on this earth.” 

Kotzen’s touring band includes Dylan Wilson on bass and Mike Bennett on drums.

“Mike has been playing with me for seven years and Dylan has been with me for six,” said Kotzen.

“This is a good band.  We’re doing six songs from ‘Salting Earth’ and a lot of older songs. I love the new show. It’s my favorite.”

In addition to his show in Lancaster on May 10, Kotzen also has upcoming shows in New Hope and Bethlehem – May 14 at  Havana (105 South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-5501, havananewhope.com) and May 17 at Musicfest Café (101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, www.steelstacks.org).

Video link for Richie Kotzen –https://youtu.be/0hGxS63e3T8.

The show at Tellus360, which has Corty Byron as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.

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