Album of the Day: Reese McHenry, “No Dados”

The story of Reese McHenry’s struggles—of her stroke in 2008, followed by more strokes, followed by the loss of her job, followed by the loss of her home—is devastating. The powerhouse vocalist could barely speak, let alone sing. Performing was untenable. What followed was a half-dozen operations, the installing of a pacemaker, years devoted to addressing the atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. Maybe it’s overly sentimental to put too much on the rebuilding of a heart, but McHenry makes garage rock and soul for thick-skinned romantics: it just comes with the territory.

No Dados is McHenry’s new album, on Suah Sounds. Recorded over the span of six days, it finds the Chapel Hill, NC singer/guitarist joining forces with a full-bodied backing band, the Raleigh outfit Drag Sounds. Again, it’s tempting to read something into that fact that she spent six days recording 13 songs; life is so short! So fragile! Live for now, and keep the recording budget under $4,000! Of course, to get caught up in the album’s backstory is to overlook what makes McHenry’s effort so compelling: her simultaneously wounded and defiant songs, and her astoundingly plaintive, classically soulful voice, with its multi-octave range. No Dados took the time it took because it’s a love shack rager, unkempt and swaggering. Six days is more than enough to paraphrase the shoulder-shaking hard rock of “Clogged and Idle Freeways,” to give a broken spirit the reserves.

From the pounding garage stomp of opener “Magnolia Tree” (“You were there with a bang bang bang,” McHenry practically howls before the wah-wah and backing band vocals take us home) to the walking-after-midnight-to-the-dark-end-of-the-street rock ‘n’ blues of “I Hate Waiting,” No Dados does all that rock ‘n’ roll, at its most sorrow-driven and improbable, ever wanted to do for anyone—and that’s to fix a broken heart.

Zachary Lipez

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