Album Review: Reese McHenry – No Dados

ReeseMcHenry_NoDados_COVER_Michael_Venutolo_Mantovani

The phrase “finding strength through adversity” must have been applied ten fold to Reese McHenry. If you were to read about the health problems that nearly sidetracked her career (as well as her life), you would not expect to hear an album like this. No Dados is a garage rock hurricane; a barrage of beautiful soulful music that pulls influences from 50’s R&B, 60’s rock n’ roll and 70’s punk to form a powerful collection that seeks no pity.

For those who like easy comparisons for artists, think of McHenry as Janis Joplin, if she were backed by The Stooges. Her music bursts with the Detroit garage rock sound, so it’s fitting that the album’s first single is aptly titled “Detroit”. The track is a barnburner, with hints of classic girl groups, but bashes through that sugary goodness with a raw, raucous roar. McHenry sings “I’m going to Detroit to bring you back home”, and she’s isn’t dreaming it – she’s shouting as a command to herself.

The tracks on the album are simply built; loud, crashing drums, bass and distorted guitars backing up McHenry’s ferocious delivery. It’s a simple formula that works perfectly well throughout the album. Songs like “Bye Bye Baby” have an old school R&B beat, but bring in dirty guitar solos to rave up the sound. Equally gritty is “White Bear Incident”, which mines the caves of barroom punk rock, but is balanced out by McHenry’s melancholy wail, as she tries to fight her way back to health (“I just want to lay in bed until I feel like myself again”). It’s the most direct reference to her struggles on the album, making it all the more inspiring of a track.

The rollicking onslaught is broken up a bit; “Fever” has a jangly melody and softer, country-inflected vocals that make for an almost pretty song, while not letting you forget that McHenry can belt out a booming chorus. This track is followed by the ballad “Summer Sheets”, which one might initially imagine playing at Marty McFly’s parents’ prom, but with McHenry’s bluesy, swooning delivery and defiant, empowering lyrics “I am the wolves, and I am the freeways…”, it sounds more like a call to arms than a slow dance.

As soon as that song ends, the band returns to foot-stomping territory. “Clogged and Idle Freeways” has the kind of hammering drums and distorted guitars that would have Jack White head banging, while shedding a tear as the siren-like vocals exude pain, with the ending chant of “Why don’t you love me” tearing a deeper scar with every slash.

Needless to say, No Dados is one of the strongest, pure rock and roll albums to come out in ages. It’s raw, real and uniformly excellent. While you may not be able to make out every lyric, and some of the songs towards the end tend to blend together with their beautiful cacophony, the album still stands as a testament to the power of music to heal, energize and exhilarate.

The album comes out on April 12th. Until then, you can dive in through the lead single “Detroit” below:

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