If camping were allowed in shopping center parking lots, this would be a great week to bring your sleeping bag to Vienna's sweetest little listening room, because Jammin' Java has booked a schedule packed with musicians worth your interest.
Tonight brings soulful singer-songwriter Shannon McNally, celebrating the late-June release of her second album, "Geronimo," on the Back Porch/EMI label. Mixing country, blues and rock with a gentle Southern twang, McNally calls her sound "North American ghost music." She's got a strong, gritty voice that recalls those of Melissa Etheridge or Stevie Nicks (without the flightiness) and a playful R&B style that would please fans of the great Bonnie Raitt.
McNally, a native New Yorker, moved to New Orleans several years ago and recorded the new album during two hot summer weeks in Louisiana bayou country with guitarist Charlie Sexton (recently seen touring with Bob Dylan) manning the production board. Sexton contributed hot licks to the album, as did noted keyboardist Ian McLagan (the Faces, the Rolling Stones) and bass players Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan, Asleep at the Wheel) and Tony Hall (Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris). The rootsy results include haunting balladry ("Leave Your Bags by the Door"), bluesy jamming ("The Hard Way") and a version of Taj Mahal's "Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes," which the blues master requested McNally cover when she shared a concert bill with him.
Living up to its name, "Good and Reckless and True" is the lovely debut album by the Connecticut-based Alternate Routes, who will roll into Jammin' Java on Wednesday. Formed in 2002, the trio is led by songwriters Tim Warren (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Eric Donnelly (electric guitar), with bassist Chip Johnson filling out the pleasing, roots-pop sound.
The Routes recorded their independently released CD in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce, veteran of sessions with Patty Griffin and John Hiatt. As with McNally, the material can be both tender ("Hollywood") and raucous ("Who Cares?"). It's the kind of CD that moves quickly from new favorite to old friend in your collection.
In a rare vote of confidence for a new band, Jammin' Java and a few other smart venues, such as New York's Knitting Factory and Philadelphia's World Cafe Live, are offering the Alternate Routes a five-week "residency" this summer, meaning that the trio has a regular weekly gig in each city. Through Aug. 10, you can catch Alternate Routes every Wednesday at Jammin' Java, so there's no excuse for missing them.
Those two acts are but bookends to a week of fine listening. Tomorrow, Cecilia, the area's favorite true family band (yes, the members are all related) makes a return appearance. On Monday, Peter Bradley Adams, one half of eastmountainsouth, will road-test material from his forthcoming solo EP as opening act for Glen Phillips, formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket. And Tuesday brings Columbia Records' Ari Hest, in a full band show, with Brian Vander Ark (from the Verve Pipe) opening. Whew!
Check out the full week's schedule at the club's Web site, www.jamminjava.com.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
Jammin' Java is at 227 Maple Ave. E. Admission is $12 for Shannon McNally, $10 for the Alternate Routes. The club offers wine, beer, food and drink, and all ages are welcome. The phone number is 703-255-1566.
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