On Stage: Duhon decides not to go it alone anymore

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

The Andrew Duhon Trio

For years, Andrew Duhon pursued his music career as a solo artist. He toured and recorded on his own. But, that changed recently.

Duhon is a songwriter from New Orleans — a teller of stories with insightful lyrics and a distinctive voice. He has released three albums, the latest of which (“The Moorings”) was nominated for a Grammy in 2014 for “Best Engineered Album.”

Duhon, who had a few of his songs featured on “The Ranch” on Netflix this summer, is visiting the area on September 5 as part of a northeastern U.S. tour with his band the Andrew Duhon Trio – the band that played on “The Moorings.” The tour will stop at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com)

“This tour will be with my trio for all the dates,” said Duhon, during a phone interview Friday from a stop in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“We’re playing clubs for singer/songwriter folks. It’s basically ‘An Evening with Andrew Duhon’ with my trio — upright bassist Myles Weeks and drummer Maxwell Zemanovic.

Duhon, whose list of influences includes Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edwin Torres, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, John Prine, and Townes Van Zandt, explained the shift from one-piece to three-piece.

“I needed a band to make a record four years ago,” said Duhon. “I was looking at the usual suspects here in New Orleans and it wasn’t working out. Myles was always the guy I wanted to call.

“Max was a recommendation from a drummer I had worked with previously. When I heard him play, it only took a few seconds to realize it was right.

“With hired guns, you want guys who can make a good record. We all got along really well. When I had tours coming up and sked them to play with me, they always said yes. We were all pumped about being out there together and honing new songs.

“Beginning with the first session, we all realized that we were making a record with music we all honed together. To have finally done it was an exciting thing for all of us.

“To have two guys that are the best musicians I ever played with is great. It’s truly encouraging to be able to tour with guys like them. It’s a special situation.”

Weeks and Zemanovic are what you’d call “in demand” musicians. Weeks tours and records with Steph Walker and Zemanovic is a key member of Miranda Lambert’s band.

“When I’m planning a tour, I have to book around Miranda Lambert’s tour,” said Duhon. “But, her tours are booked way in advance so it’s not really a problem for me.”

If you listen to “The Moorings,” it is apparent that the music has been created by an organic unit – not just session men backing a singer/songwriter. That vibe is carrying on to the trio’s next album.

“Lyrically, I’m still the songwriter,” said Duhon. “But, it would be false to say that they didn’t musically inform these songs. They’re not just players – they’re molders of the music.”

Video link for Andrew Duhon – https://youtu.be/wyGaqAQBcuw.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Shannon McNally

When Shannon McNally made a long-awaited return to the area back in May with a show at the Ardmore Music Hall, she was touring in support of her new album “Black Irish.”

The only drawback was that the album was still one month away from being released. It officially dropped on June 9 on Compass Records.

Now, the album is in fans’ ears and McNally is returning to the area for a show on September 6 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“The album is out and the fans love it,” said McNally, during a phone interview Monday morning from a stop in Long Island.

“We’re working on a really great new video that we shot at Ground Zero – a blue club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It’s a live video featuring Cedrick Burnside on drums, Audley Freed on Guitar Eric Deaton on bass and me on guitar and vocals.

“We were doing a blues set at the club. It’s a blues song. I had a badass blues band. And, we were playing at a great blues club. The song we did was “I Went to the Well.’

“It’s the second video we’ve done for the album. The first was ‘You Made Me Feel For You,” a song I co-wrote with Rodney Crowell.”

“Black Irish” is McNally’s eighth album in a career that started with her debut album “Jukebox Sparrows” in 2001. She recorded for six record companies over the last 16 years.

“I’m really happy to be with Compass Records,” said McNally. “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.

“Basically, what I’m doing is Americana blues. Because it’s song-based, it’s expandable. Singer-songwriter, Americana, blues, country – it’s just a name. It’s song-based music. It’s just the song.

“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 co-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 songs 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 in 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. My live set now is half songs from ‘Black Irish’ and half older songs.”

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

The show at Sellersville, which has Caroline Reese as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.50 and $29.50.

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