Material: In support of her new album, A Touch Of Class, Shannon McArdle unveiled the new release in its entirety, an acoustic mélange of introspective pennings, adding only one non-original, “The Worst,” by Keith Richards. Though most of her material deals with relationships that don’t pay off or simply unmask underlying vulnerability, McArdle offers a variety of musical variation in rhythms and song structure. In “Hunger Strike,” we get a glimpse of that vulnerability: Many hearts have yearned for more than this/You took your love away forgot my kiss/I know there’s sense in what you’re doing/but that don’t stop these pains of mine. “Like A Harlot” showcases McArdle at her strongest, which ironically is when she sounds her most vulnerable: May be a lot that I’m asking of you/I know babe we’ve all got our things but god damn I’ve been going through my things too/did you know/But I know you’re trying to love me. The song title only appears at the beginning of the first verse and nowhere again in the song. The song might have been titled “Trying To Love Me.” The addition of a violin accompaniment is a perfect pairing for the tone and mood of the song.
Musicianship: Her wispy, girlish sound has a tender quality, but doesn’t always project over the band. McArdle is heard best when backed by a single instrument or a stripped down arrangement. There were pitch issues with the vocals, perhaps due to the sound setup and what McArdle was hearing through her monitor. Though the band was supportive and teamwork was evident, periodically the timing wasn’t always locked in.
Performance: The band as a whole appeared overly relaxed, and audience interaction seemed to occasionally jump the audience/performer barrier (perhaps as a result of what seemed to be a lot of band members’ friends present). However, the musicians projected a sense of sheer joy in being there and performing in support of this new release. McArdle had a quirky but appealing manner and a unique way of introducing the band members by simply asking (as each were introduced), “Do you know so and so?” It was charming and unexpected.
Summary: Though she’s an artist who has something to say, Shannon McArdle was periodically a casualty of a sound setup that didn’t buttress her performance. She has a touching vulnerability that shines brightest when quieter instrumentation is behind her.
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Players: Shannon McArdle, vocals, guitar; Tom Gavin, electric lead guitar, vocals; Bob van Pelt, bass, harmonies; Win Lockwood, electric and acoustic guitar, harmonies; Jeff Olson, drums, harmonies; David Nagler, special guest, piano