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Shannon McNally
Categories: Music, Utrinque Paratus

‘Jukebox Sparrows’

By Leigh E. Rich

Shannon McNally
Jukebox Sparrows

Apparently the back-up career for anthropology majors these days is coffeehouse maiden singer-songwriter, and newcomer Shannon McNally serves her debut right out of the ’90s caffeine scene—lukewarm but with a perky smile. Though this 27-year-old from Long Island is rather late in the “I’m so beautiful I’m bitter” genre, Sparrows earns an extra shot of espresso for leaving behind the bitchiness and crooning instead about environmentalism and ethnocentrism. Problem is, it just doesn’t work.

Citing inspirational sources such as Ralph Nader, Jane Goodall, and the tragedy of Wounded Knee, all of her academic intellectualizing doesn’t make for interesting lyrics or motivational ’60s-style folk activism. Her “It Ain’t Easy Being Green”—a not-so-subtle reference to global concerns—would have more poignancy as a remake of the Kermit favorite, à la Mandy Patinkin, and the strong intro to “Bury My Heart on the Jersey Shore” loses itself in hokey “sha la las.”

Though some songs are catchy, the album as a whole blends together—with the egregious exception of the spoken-word title track likely dedicated to pretentious “I’ve just paid $4 for a cup of dirty water” patrons. McNally’s simple lyrics work at times—”My mother was a beauty queen and my father tended bar, and they made me beneath Leo’s rising star with Elvis on the radio singing love me tender, love me true”—and at others are cliché—”Don’t ya know I love you when you’re down and dirty?”

Sadly, McNally lacks the vivacity of Nina Storey, the charming hostility of Alanis Morissette, the soulfulness of Fiona Apple, or the intensity of Ferron. But there is something worthwhile about Sparrows, as nebulous as it might be. Maybe, just maybe, next time McNally will let fly one of those sparrows she keeps jailed in the Kaffeehaus. 

Rich, L. E. (2002, January 30). Shannon McNally: ‘Jukebox Sparrows.’ CU-Denver Advocate.

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