for "Moon Over the Interstate"
(McCallion) rivals Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent as one of the finest Americana songwriters of the '90s and she deserves a comparable reputation...
Nancy McCallion: Press
for "Moon Over the Interstate"
(McCallion's) stories of working-class lives, souls slowly unraveling as a result of economic or spiritual strain, are as instantly believable, witty, at times a bit angry, hinting at a punkish energy that never feels like hipsterism.
for "Only a Story"
Fronted by the salty, sensuous vocals of Nancy McCallion who resembles a collision between Guy Clarke's descriptive powers and Mary Coughlan's barrelhouse delivery... McCallion's songs are the centerpiece, richly dipped in localised imagery and language. She writes eloquently on situations other scribes would run from.
for "Only a Story"
(Nancy McCallion's) tough-hearted tales of women struggling to strike a balance between intimacy and independence are as good as any being written today.
Nancy McCallion, former member of The Mollys, has now gone solo with her superb self-titled debut CD. (4 stars) A blend of traditional country with Tex-Mex and Celtic flavourings, McCallion has surrounded herself with some great session players, including Austin fiddler, Darcie Deaville, guitarist Danny Krieger, drummer Ralph Gilmore (who co-produced the album with Nancy), bassist Steve Grams and sister Lisa McCallion, who adds back-up vocals. The band really swings on the uptempo "The Leaving Kind", then showcases great sensitivity on bluegrass-Celtic ballad "Reckless Child". The vocal duet between Nancy and Lisa on "Elvis Again" is an infectious gem. For those into Texas music, this is a fine example of how country music, in all its varied styles, is still very much fresh and alive in the Lone Star state.
"...her lyrics have a direct immediacy set with a true traditional flair. They are world-weary, bitter, start, drunken and funny."
Nancy McCallion: Take a Picture of Me (Mama Mama)
A mainstay of the Tucson music community for more than 20 years, acclaimed singer-songwriter Nancy McCallion has created an excellent new album that couldn't be more timely.
The 12 country, blues, rock and Celtic-influenced songs examine the struggles of America's working poor and homeless populations. (A dollar from each CD will be donated to the Primavera Foundation.) A veteran of the Mollys and Last Call Girls, McCallion also faced a personal economic crisis when she was temporarily laid off from her teaching job. Although she emerged safely, she nails the voices of quiet desperation.
Among the musicians assisting are guitarist Danny Krieger, bassist Steve Grams, drummer Ralph Gilmore, accordionist Kevin Schramm and former Mollys partner Catherine Zavala.
The opening one-two punch of "He's Gone" and "Good Old Days" look at loss with wry humor. But the CD really hits its stride—and proves its diversity—in its middle. The gentle Celtic touches of the title track, which will remind listeners of the Mollys, gives way to some charming dustbowl country-blues on "It's Never Too Late to Get Lucky." That's followed by "Cruel Thing," in which alt-country meets swamp rock. And "Who's at the Window" places McCallion's sweet voice against a dark musical landscape highlighted by booming baritone guitar and aching fiddle.
McCallion knows, sings of tough timesSinger with new release went through TUSD firstname.lastname@example.orgTucson, Arizona | Published: 11.19.2009
When Nancy McCallion was laid off as a teacher from the Tucson Unified School District in 2008, she joined millions of jobless Americans who had no idea what they were going to do next."I had a house, a mortgage," the singer-songwriter said in a phone interview Monday. "My husband (Danny Krieger) is a professional musician, so he didn't have health care. I was the one with health care. There was no way we could afford it on our own. It was kind of scary."McCallion, 46, was eventually called back to teach, but not before getting inspired.Her latest album, "Take a Picture of Me to Show I Was Here," was heavily influenced by her time spent unemployed. It will be showcased Friday with a CD-release party at the Hut.Tracks on the project follow themes of abandonment, loss and angst during tough economic times and are delivered in an eclectic mix of musical styles.Songs such as the slow-going "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" have a old-timey feel. The cut "Good Old Days" leans more toward rowdy, boot-stomping country."Ain't no such thing as the good old days," McCallion sings on the track. "But I miss them anyway.""The songs were more personal than sitting down and trying to put myself in a difficult situation," she said. "I was actually going through this, close to it. It wasn't so abstract."The idea for an album documenting economic woes was a long time coming for McCallion.Two years prior, she had attended a photography exhibition at the University of Arizona dubbed "Unseen America" that inspired her to write the album's title track.The display was made up of black and white photos taken by low-income workers from across the country."Some of the photographs were really strong," McCallion said. "They had narratives that went along with them. I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who lost everything and is moving on."When McCallion found herself unemployed, juggling finances she knew she couldn't afford, the rest of the album just flowed out of her."I want people to get an awareness for people who are on the fringes," she said, "the working poor who can't afford health care. I think a lot of us don't realize what it is like not to have it, until it is gone."
Nancy McCallion's new CD sparked by a working poor art exhibit
If you haven't been affected by the country's economic collapse, you are one of the lucky few. Government budgets and workers are buckling under the weight of waves of applications from the unemployed and working poor; lines at the Department of Economic Security are seeing more professionals with college degrees who seek the temporary crutches of unemployment checks, health coverage and food stamps.
For those of us who have faced lay-offs, depleting savings accounts and tough monetary decisions - do I pay my rent/mortgage or my health insurance? How will I cover food and electricity and my other bills? - Nancy McCallion's newest release will definitely strike a chord.
The native Tucsonan, who has been making music for over two decades as a singer/songwriter (The Mollys, The Last Call Girls) and also plays the guitar, mandolin and penny whistle, says her new album was inspired by a photography exhibit that hung at the UA's Student Union a few years ago.
Take a Picture of Me to Show I Was Here found its roots with the show "Unseen America," a traveling, national documentary exhibit program of the Bread and Roses Cultural Projects - featuring photos and essays by the working poor, McCallion explained to me in a letter.
"After seeing the exhibit, I went home and wrote Take a Picture of Me, the title track of the CD. I stewed on the idea for two years. It wasn't until I was laid off from my teaching job last summer that my personal angst inspired me to finish the rest of the songs for the project."
It's not a cry-in-yer-beer album - but it does poignantly and aptly present the hard facts of hard times in 12 tracks that include rock, folk and honky-tonk tunes.
Track two, Good Old Days, is an upbeat two-stepping country rock dandy with wry lyrics - My investments have all left me in the cold/They were supposed to bring me comfort when I'm old/Seems I have to find my comfort on my own/I'm tired and broke and all alone/Ain't no such thing as the good old days, but I miss them anyway.
The title track, Take a Picture of Me, is a heartbreaking tune done in the style of traditional American folk - telling the story of happy memories lost to time. Music from a phonograph/Bought with cash in hand/Played while Mama danced and sang/Before we lost the land/Records from a phonograph/in boxes on the lawn/Mama's bank can have it all/Tonight I'm moving on.
Worth the local sale price of $15, one dollar from every disk sold will go to Tucson's Primavera Foundation, an organization whose services "provide a full range of opportunities to help people transition from poverty to greater well-being and security."
The $10 cover for the CD release party on Friday, November 20 at The Hut, 305 N. 4th Ave., is also a benefit for Primavera. If you go to the show, you'll be able to snag Take a Picture of Me to Show I Was Here for a mere $10.
Her band that night includes Ralph Gilmore, Steve Grams, Danny Krieger, Catherine Zavala, and Kevin Schramm - the musicians who also contribute to her album. She promises that old Molly's songs will be performed along with the new stuff.
Also visit Southwest Center for Economic Integrity - photos printed on Nancy's CD are from the organization's book "People Around Us."
for "Live at The Auld Dubliner"
The disc includes some cover songs, including Ewan MacColl's classic "Dirty Old Town" (made famous by The Pogues), which opens the album, a slew of traditional tunes and some McCallion originals. The band is absolutely stellar throughout, particularly the guitar work provided by Krieger and Hardy's gorgeous violin playing; still, their contributions are always in service to the song, aiding and abetting but never getting in the way. This is one of the rare times in recent memory that I've been thankful for extended instrumental passages.
Which is not to say that I'm not equally thankful when McCallion's voice re-enters the mix. The veteran has been around long enough to play to her strengths, which she does here. Unlike a lot of Americans who perform traditional Irish music, McCallion has the smarts to not adopt a phony brogue, a tactic that never seems to convince. Still, her cadence is spot-on and her voice is supple enough to adopt to uptempo songs and ballads alike.
"Nancy McCallion" listed as #2 debut album for 2005 Freeform American Roots Charts.
McCallion's songwriting is at its apex. Simple yet potent, fit for dancing or crying in your beer, her songs convey the message that sad luck knows no borders and is a little too comfortable in every cultural environment. They ring of truth and worldliness, yet also harbor that "Oh, what the hell" attitude that keeps the unlucky in love hopeful that the next will be the real thing.
PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 23, 2006:
Pick of the Week
Never Too Late
By IRENE MESSINA
The Last Call Girls
If you are unfamiliar with the local country dance band The Last Call Girls, you might wonder what the name refers to. Are we talking about last call at a bar--or something else?
Nancy McCallion--who fronts the band with her sister Lisa--doesn't provide an exact answer and says she likes the ambiguity of it. "It's a catchy name. It lets people know it's a woman's band."
Don't let that statement create any preconceived notions. This "woman's band" rocks with its high energy, honky-tonk, rockabilly music. Approaching their four-year anniversary in December, the band takes its roots from Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Band members are songwriter McCallion on guitar, penny whistle, mouth organ and vocals; sister Lisa McCallion on bass and vocals; Kevin Schramm on guitar, dobro and accordions; Tom Rhodes on fiddle, guitar and mandolin; and Michael Joyal on drums.
McCallion says she has been in bands since she was 19. Before The Last Call Girls, she was the songwriter and vocalist for The Mollys--the "Celtic-Norteño-you-name-it folk-rock cult band" in existence from 1989 to 2003. After the Mollys, she released a self-titled CD in 2004.
The CD contains 14 tracks, mostly written by McCallion. A description of the bands' music is offered in their press release: "If you must categorize them, think love gone wrong and revenge gleefully taken ..."
McCallion's lyrics are stories in themselves--about love, yearning and heartbreak. "I listen to people's conversations a lot. They say things that I find catchy. I think in terms of characters and tell a story about them. ... I write about romance, relationships, things gone wrong. The emotion is universal. I find the situation that fits the emotion."
Emotion plays a strong part in McCallion's work, as she says she is drawn to gut-wrenching music. "I love to hear a story so sad that I cry. Maybe that's an Irish thing. I try to express that somehow."
And indeed she does. In "You're No Good for Me," McCallion says the song is about a woman who realizes that her man is not in love with her. And she doesn't want to admit that to herself:
You wake up, drink your coffee, read your paper and you start your
I'm like a fly buzzing all around, getting in the way
I try too hard, my jokes ain't funny, but they used to be
You give your best to everybody else
But you're no good for me.
There's an inherent sadness in McCallion's lyrics, as you feel the loneliness of this imaginary woman pining after a man whose attention is elsewhere.
Another lonely soul is the focus of "You're a Stranger Now":
My belongings are scattered all over the room
It's check in at midnight and check out at noon
I've had all the luck that my luck would allow
And you're a stranger now.
McCallion says the song is a recollection of her days on the road, checking into hotel rooms with loved ones becoming strangers miles away. She toured for seven years with The Mollys, going out six weeks at a time and then two weeks at home.
"I was on the road a long time. It's lonely on the road and a struggle to keep relationships going. It was a great life, but it had drawbacks."
Perhaps life on the road led her to write this lyric from "Lonesome Is." But even those who are homebound and blue can say amen to this:
Well lonesome ain't just a state of
It's as real as sin and it ain't half as
McCallion says she tries to write in a style reminiscent of Hank Williams. With his songs, "you get that sense of universal frustrations and desires. I try to capture that. ... His songs are so simple and have a universal quality about them. He doesn't get fancy; he gets right to the point. 'Your Cheatin' Heart' is a great, simple expression of something universal."
With collective themes of love, heartbreak and loneliness flowing through her songs, McCallion also appreciates the universal value of music as art. "To me, good art is what makes us join together in a cosmic way. ... Art lifts us out of ourselves somehow."
With this thought, it seems appropriate that the Last Calls Girls' first CD is titled It's Never Too Late to Get Lucky. The woman depicted in the title track sits by herself holding the picture of a man lamenting that "the best odds I have are for dying." But in the next breath, she realizes "it's never too late to get lucky."
So even though McCallion's songs have a categorization of "love gone wrong," we'd be remiss if we didn't add the universal quality of hope to the mix. It's never too late for that.