A Perfect Fit

Sings Like Hell presents Shannon McNally and Kris
Delmhorst.

At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, May 20.

Reviewed by Hannah Tennant-Moore

There was a refreshing dorkiness to the gaiety that filled the
Lobero last Saturday night. When Kris Delmhorst coyly introduced
her last song as having “bad words in it,” and several rowdy
whistles rose from the audience when she actually sang the word
“fuck,” the show’s good-clean-fun vibe was abundantly clear.

New Orleans rising star Shannon McNally opened the show with her
guitar and commanding set of pipes. The self-consciousness of her
between-song banter (“There’s a reason I don’t do stand-up,” she
said, but continued telling awkward stories) was forgiven the
second she unleashed her soulful voice. But after a half-hour had
passed and McNally was still alone with her guitar, I began rubbing
my eyes. Her riffs were tight but simple, and I was left longing
for a rocking country/folk band to back up that spine-tingling
voice.

Fortunately, that is exactly what we got when Kris Delmhorst
took the stage with her new band. The sound was perfectly suited to
the Lobero, filling the space completely without demanding a more
dance-friendly venue. Loyal followers called out song requests with
such insistent abandon that Delmhorst jokingly asked if there was
any wine left outside. She was mostly obedient, playing the oldies
“Waiting Under the Waves” and “East of the Mountains” when asked,
but no one seemed disappointed that the evening’s primary focus was
her newest recording, Strange Conversations. Given the album’s
premise — the songs are Delmhorst’s responses to various
poems — the music came with a hefty dose of entertaining
intellectualism. She often had us cracking up even as she
referenced Virgil, Robert Browning, and “19th-century Venetian
dudes.”

It was impossible not to notice Delmhorst’s joyful glow, which
the New Englander attributed to being somewhere she could put her
feet in “actual sand” and “actual water,” but she was clearly also
in the throes of her new band’s honeymoon period. Drummer Lorne
Entress, bassist Paul Kochanski, and guitarist Kevin Barry played
generously, frequently exchanging genuine smiles and nods of
encouragement.

Their joy was contagious and the audience left feeling that it
was momentarily in on happiness’ big secret. When Delmhorst
disclosed the purpose of life — as told in a “long, trippy” book
she recently read about Virgil — it actually seemed to make a lot
of sense. For the curious, check out the track “The Drop and the
Dream” on Strange Conversations, in stores June 20.

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