On Aug. 6, Tipitina's hosted two local acts, opener Grayson Capps and headliner Shannon McNally, who carry the momentum of being two of the most buzzed-about artists in New Orleans. There's good reason for the hype surrounding the soulful, rocking singer-songwriters, both of whom are solid musicians and exude an accomplished, grizzled touring veteran vibe while maintaining their exuberance and charm.
Capps scored preliminary Oscar consideration this year for Best Song for "Lorraine's Song," a tune Theresa Andersson sang on the soundtrack for the movie Love Song for Bobby Long. This attention follows years of the Brewton, Ala., native gaining critical acclaim. In June, Capps released If You Knew My Mind (Hyena), an engaging, well-crafted blues album that displays his gift for writing blues lyrics with poetic elegance.
This night, a Tom Waits-esque Capps stirred soul and passion as he played sitting down, his half-calf cowboy boots smashing time on the floor, his body taugt and rocking with intensity as he sang and played. On blues numbers "Get Back Up" and "Slidell," he performed as if he was haunted, while faster, quirkier tunes such as "Buckshot" allowed bassist Josh Kerin (Dirty Mouth, Rockin' Jake) and guitarist Tommy MacLuckie to showcase their considerable chops. Throughout, Kerin bobbed effortlessly as he tapped out funky, dirty grooves, and MacLuckie took several solid, distortion-rich solos.
While performing a lengthy set for an opening act -- his Stumpknockers held the stage for 75 minutes -- Capps spoke of his admiration for Shannon McNally; after all, this was her night. After an exhausting tour to support her recently released and well-received album Geronimo (Back Porch), McNally ended the tour with a deservedly hyped hometown show, fancy, label-supported tour bus in tow. After five weeks together, the band was as tight as you might expect. McNally showed brief signs of nerves when she welcomed everybody in a slightly shaky voice, but during the second song, "Weathervane," her soaring vocals let loose raw emotion.
From there, she led her band through a rollicking, rocking set spanning the blues-rock-country-folk spectrum that combined a strong band -- including McNally's husband, drummer Wallace Lester -- with a leader with clear star power. "She's got it," someone in the crowd said, and the band had it, too -- notably pedal guitar wizard Dave Easley. His intense focus led to swirling solos in a style reminiscent of Jerry Garcia's abstractions, but with a punch that fueled McNally's often-bouncing style. That doesn't mean she can't serenade with slow songs, though. McNally and Easley shared the stage to perform "Just Leave Your Bags by the Door" from Geronimo and the traditional "Long Black Veil" as duets. The quiet power and grace of the songs was a lovely ending to a great night of music.