Shannon McNally follows up her aesthetic and critical breakthrough, Geronimo, with a live record on Backporch. First off, the title is interesting in how it relates to the set itself. Basically, she's reliving her own ghosts with five tunes from the aforementioned recording and two from her major-label debut, Jukebox Sparrows. In fact, she opens with a raw, completely supercharged reading of "Bolder Than Paradise," singing it with a rasp and burning guitars, pulling it out of the past and putting it in front of a crowd as something that has been shape-shifted out from under the production team's hands. This is the way the song should have always sounded. It's immediate, lean, wild, and barely contained inside her throat as she all but spits out the lyrics as the band rides high behind her. The same goes for "Down and Dirty," also from Jukebox, which finds itself left empty of its original meaning and treatment and here actually returns to the grit and mud-soaked R&B intention of its songwriter in the grain of her voice. Of the songs from Geronimo, the spirit was always there. Just listen to "Sweet Forgiveness" and one can hear in McNally's voice -- over Wallace Lester's drums, Dave Easley's churning six-string, and David Stocker's keyboards -- the traces of those who left the imprint on the song's protagonist, the traces of rage, pain, and suffering on a woman who has no intention of paying them back in kind. Musically, one can hear traces of the Band when they played live and loose, John Mellencamp at his finest, the hard country-rock of Jason & the Scorchers, and (in "Weathervane") the steely-eyed unsentimental look at the world of Kris Kristofferson. There are a pair of covers here as well. There's a fine version of John Dawson's (remember the New Riders of the Purple Sage?) country lament "The Last Lonely Eagle," and a gorgeous version of Sharon Vaughn's "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys." Ultimately, this album may be a stopover between studio recordings, or just another shot to boost McNally's visibility. Either way, it doesn't matter. It's raw and immediate, and captures her at her best.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek