Charlie Sexton & Shannon McNally

Southside Sessions (Back Porch)

ACL Music Fest Reviews

Charlie Sexton & Shannon McNally

Southside Sessions (Back Porch)

For a recording that falls on the side of roots-rock, Southside Sessions cuts close to the bone without bleeding. Inspired by the successful 2005 tour by Charlie Sexton and Shannon McNally, who traded appearances on each other's acclaimed albums last year (Sexton produced hers), the two repeat their onstage duets on this seven-song EP (both "Burn" and "I'd Do the Same for You" appeared on Sexton's Cruel and Gentle Things). The results are a tight, canny collection of songs, sometimes languorous and understated ("Nothing Mysterious"), but more often transcendently beautiful ("No Place to Fall"). That it shapes four of Sexton's and one of McNally's original compositions with Townes Van Zandt and Jesse Winchester chestnuts makes it all the more alluring. The latter's "Biloxi" is the disc's most sublime moment, wistful but never fey, a stunning and gorgeous lament that evokes the devastated New Orleans in the most poetic of lyrics. McNally is a relative newcomer, recording less than 10 years, compared with Sexton's baptism by rock & roll fire in Austin nightclubs when he was a baby. Yet both have struck a common chord with each other, a union of luminous joy and emotional strength married in music. (Saturday, 5:15pm, Austin Ventures stage)


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