While Shannon McNally's 2002 debut Jukebox Sparrows had promising stretches, it also opted too much for middle of the road, adult-ish pop/rock. 2005's Geronimo arrives via Back Porch, a Capitol boutique imprint that also carries mature acts like the BoDeans and Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, so there's an adult quality to this one, too. But it's a huge step forward stylistically, punching up the country influences and humid barroom swagger that simmered beneath Jukebox's too-clean surface, and letting the smoky ends of McNally's syllables linger over the warmth of acoustic guitars, standup bass, Hammond B3, and pedal-steel. The title track has a great, mournful echo about it, like Paula Frazer's songs, and her laconic cover of Bobby Charles' "Tennessee Blues" nods to the record's New Orleans recording sessions. (Not to mention the Band overtones coursing through most of it.) The urgent "Hard Way" has a Little Feat feel, and "Leave Your Bags by the Door" is the album's tender moment, a dusky love theme awash in pump organ and McNally's hushed delivery. It also features some of her strongest lyrics. McNally really has something with Geronimo. It's a record of a piece with peers like Shivaree, because McNally understands that pain, mystery, and storytelling aren't part of a formula.