Labelled with Love: Shannon McGill sings John Train
It is always our great pleasure when Shannon McGill joins John Train for a gig during our annual residencies at Fergie’s Pub. Jeez. I sure miss those shows. Shannon is a wonderful and very unique singer and she just seems to fit in with the band. Could be her propensity to cuss!
Until we can get back to Ferg’s and invite Shannon back to the stage, here’s a few songs from a rehearsal we did with Shannon preparing for show in February 2020, before everything changed.
1. “Do Right Woman”: The one time I actually met Elvis Costello, I totally froze up. Seated beside him for about 20 minutes, I didn’t say a word. And most of you know that I am seldom at a loss in that regard. I wish I’d been able to tell him how much not only his music means to me but also all of the stuff he introduced me to. Most people probably know “Do Right Woman”, written by Dan Penn, from Aretha Franklin’s peerless version on her I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You lp but I indirectly came to it via Elvis Costello’s 1981 release, Almost Blue, where EC took a break from his own songwriting to cover some of his favorite honky tonk sides. This was the first I’d ever heard of Gram Parsons or the Flying Burrito Bros (Gram’s post-Byrds combo with Chris Hillman) which led me to tracking down the Burrito’s Gilded Palace of Sin album (not an easy task in the 80s!) and discovering their beautiful country-soul take on “Do Right.” John Train’s version is pretty much lifted from this version. Thank you, Gram. Thank you, EC.
2. “500 Miles”: One of my favorite things about having Shannon sit in with John Train is hearing her sing some of my songs. “500 Miles” is from our second record, Looks Like Up, and, to my ears, sounds like I was trying to write a Joe Henry type number. I’ve written extensively about Joe’s influence on me here: http://www.phawker.com/2019/05/16/tribute-let-us-now-praise-joe-henry/ After hearing Shannon sing 500 Miles, Slo-Mo remarked, “Maybe that isn’t such a bad song after all.” Hah!
3. “Family Tree”: Shannon hand-picked this Loretta Lynn song to play with John Train. “Family Tree” appears on Loretta’s comeback record from 2004 called Van Lear Rose which was produced by Jack White. Shannon really belts this one out!
4. “You Won’t Say My Name”: Another one from Looks Like Up that I picked for Shannon to sing. She can sing anything but I especially like her take on songs in a minor key. Whenever we play this one I think of our late bass-player and dear friend Steve Demarest who, upon my introducing this number to the band, pointed out that I had lifted the riff from Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. Steve had good ears.
5. “Settin’ the Woods on Fire”: Shannon’s sets with John Train always include several songs by Hank Williams, the hillbilly Shakespeare as he is known. Kudos to Shannon for keeping up with my sometimes errant phrasing on this one in warp speed.
6. “You’re Gonna Change (or I’m Gonna Leave): Another one by Hank. I send this out to all of our significant others whose support has surely helped us keep John Train together lo these many years: Jodi, Cindy, Megan, Dorothy, Suzanne, and Barb.