Reese McHenry - No Dados - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Reese McHenry - No Dados

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-04-12
Reese McHenry - No Dados
Reese McHenry - No Dados

Under almost any scenario you could sketch out, Reese McHenry’s album No Dados shouldn’t exist.  The same could be said for the artist herself.  McHenry somehow survived multiple undiagnosed strokes, which prompted a whole host of follow-on, and just as potentially fatal, maladies.  As trying as a series of medical issues can be they also brought about a loss of job and home.  Ten years on from the beginnings of those trials, McHenry has dedicated herself fully to songwriting and performing.   With her name boldly scripted across the album’s cover, No Dados is McHenry’s first album where she hasn’t shared credit or been hidden behind the name of a band.  That should help elevate her status as a powerful solo performer.

The most obvious reaction to hearing McHenry for the first time is:  that voice.  And one that thankfully her ailments didn’t take from her.  A full throated power house shouter that certainly recalls a certain East Texas Pearl, but also with its own nuances.  She has the backwoods toughness of a Lydia Loveless, but dragging a punk powered band through her trials and tribulations brings Exene Cervenka to mind during X’s earliest days.  McHenry has plenty of experience under her belt, but stepping out under her own moniker has left her earliest metal edged sound behind in favor of a no less impassioned but more mature and much better produced approach.       

The songs on No Dados are hard-bitten tales of experience.  In one of McHenry’s promo shots she conveys the look of a woman that’s been ‘buked and scorned just one tooimage 2019 03 25 1 many times.  Wearing a pair of shades that look like they were shoplifted from Dollar General, she appears a Coen brothers visage of who you don’t want to find at the door when you were out cheating the night before.  Likewise, the women that populate McHenry’s songs tell it straight and there are no shrinking violets to be found.  The couples in the songs fight and scratch for all they get, but primarily with each other.  They are cut from a Southern cloth where divorce is out of the question and a marriage license is akin to property rights.  If your husband goes astray as on the smoking ‘Detroit’ or the more detailed ‘I Hate Waiting‘, you don’t call an attorney or your mother, you go find him and drag him by the hair back home.

Backed by a crack band consisting of Chip Steiner (drums), Mike Wallace (lead guitar), Trevor Reece (guitar), and Thomas McNeely (bass), they meet McHenry at her mark and power the set forward.  The album starts on a full blown rocker that establishes No Dados Southern roots.  ‘Magnolia Tree’ literally and figuratively starts with a bang with McHenry barely contained as Wallace adds wah-wah guitar effects and the band gamely harmonizes along.  The spoken word intro to the aforementioned ‘Detroit’ smolders for a moment, but then bursts forth as one of the more punk inspired tunes on the album ’til McHenry’s final declaration of intent.  Not faltering, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ is one the best rave-ups on display, with McHenry’s vocals shot through with a snotty sneer. 

What would be barn burners for most singers, end up being mid-tempo album highlights for McHenry.  The alt-country fueled ‘Summer Sheets’ shows some of her most evocative writing and she displays an amazing range with a palpable sense of longing usually reserved for masters like Lucinda Williams.  Lines like “I turned off my light to find you” and “strike your flint if you want to be found” pair up achingly well.  Later track ‘Someday I’ll See’ has a long loping roll to it that lets McHenry’s voice take center stage in full flower. 

If there is any short coming on No Dados, perhaps a few of the later songs could have been trimmed.  Tracks like ‘Clogged and Idle Freeways’ and ‘Gin and Catatonic’ (though I can get behind that title and it does have a cool surf thing going for it), don’t provide much sonic variety and there are better done ragers on the album.  But in fairness, given the body blows that McHenry has taken in life these short bursts end up the sound of a woman that needs to throw a few punches back.              

The album’s title is Spanish for “no dice”, which according to McHenry isn’t an idiom in Mexico where she heard it uttered more literally.  Not sure if the phrase “no quarter” exists there either, but that would have been equally fine for a title.  McHenry’s hard charging style certainly leaves no room for one to be given.  There are moments of restraint on No Dados, but they are few and far between.  McHenry is open throttle for most of the album and the few moments of repose usually give way to a more powerful close.  She’s effectively playing with house money and making the most of it as fast as she can.  No one can blame her for that and it’s a thrilling ride.    

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