If you are unfamiliar with the local country dance band The Last Call Girls, you might wonder what the name refers to. Are we talking about last call at a bar--or something else?
Nancy McCallion--who fronts the band with her sister Lisa--doesn't provide an exact answer and says she likes the ambiguity of it. "It's a catchy name. It lets people know it's a woman's band."
Don't let that statement create any preconceived notions. This "woman's band" rocks with its high energy, honky-tonk, rockabilly music. Approaching their four-year anniversary in December, the band takes its roots from Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Band members are songwriter McCallion on guitar, penny whistle, mouth organ and vocals; sister Lisa McCallion on bass and vocals; Kevin Schramm on guitar, dobro and accordions; Tom Rhodes on fiddle, guitar and mandolin; and Michael Joyal on drums.
McCallion says she has been in bands since she was 19. Before The Last Call Girls, she was the songwriter and vocalist for The Mollys--the "Celtic-Norteño-you-name-it folk-rock cult band" in existence from 1989 to 2003. After the Mollys, she released a self-titled CD in 2004.
The Last Call Girls release their first CD, It's Never Too Late to Get Lucky, at a party at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, at The Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door. CDs will be available at a $5 discount. Visit www.thelastcallgirls.com for more information.
The CD contains 14 tracks, mostly written by McCallion. A description of the bands' music is offered in their press release: "If you must categorize them, think love gone wrong and revenge gleefully taken ..."
McCallion's lyrics are stories in themselves--about love, yearning and heartbreak. "I listen to people's conversations a lot. They say things that I find catchy. I think in terms of characters and tell a story about them. ... I write about romance, relationships, things gone wrong. The emotion is universal. I find the situation that fits the emotion."
Emotion plays a strong part in McCallion's work, as she says she is drawn to gut-wrenching music. "I love to hear a story so sad that I cry. Maybe that's an Irish thing. I try to express that somehow."
And indeed she does. In "You're No Good for Me," McCallion says the song is about a woman who realizes that her man is not in love with her. And she doesn't want to admit that to herself:
You wake up, drink your coffee, read your paper and you start your
I'm like a fly buzzing all around, getting in the way
I try too hard, my jokes ain't funny, but they used to be
You give your best to everybody else
But you're no good for me.
There's an inherent sadness in McCallion's lyrics, as you feel the loneliness of this imaginary woman pining after a man whose attention is elsewhere.
Another lonely soul is the focus of "You're a Stranger Now":
My belongings are scattered all over the room
It's check in at midnight and check out at noon
I've had all the luck that my luck would allow
And you're a stranger now.
McCallion says the song is a recollection of her days on the road, checking into hotel rooms with loved ones becoming strangers miles away. She toured for seven years with The Mollys, going out six weeks at a time and then two weeks at home.
"I was on the road a long time. It's lonely on the road and a struggle to keep relationships going. It was a great life, but it had drawbacks."
Perhaps life on the road led her to write this lyric from "Lonesome Is." But even those who are homebound and blue can say amen to this:
Well lonesome ain't just a state of
It's as real as sin and it ain't half as
McCallion says she tries to write in a style reminiscent of Hank Williams. With his songs, "you get that sense of universal frustrations and desires. I try to capture that. ... His songs are so simple and have a universal quality about them. He doesn't get fancy; he gets right to the point. 'Your Cheatin' Heart' is a great, simple expression of something universal."
With collective themes of love, heartbreak and loneliness flowing through her songs, McCallion also appreciates the universal value of music as art. "To me, good art is what makes us join together in a cosmic way. ... Art lifts us out of ourselves somehow."
With this thought, it seems appropriate that the Last Calls Girls' first CD is titled It's Never Too Late to Get Lucky. The woman depicted in the title track sits by herself holding the picture of a man lamenting that "the best odds I have are for dying." But in the next breath, she realizes "it's never too late to get lucky."
So even though McCallion's songs have a categorization of "love gone wrong," we'd be remiss if we didn't add the universal quality of hope to the mix. It's never too late for that.