Shannon celebrates ‘Lucky 7’
Mahoning Valley talent joins in
Marc Lee Shannon’s new record “Lucky 7” has a song on it called “Steady On,” but he made a dramatic course change early in the process.
The album, which he recorded with friend, producer and fellow musician Ryan Humbert, initially was conceived as a pandemic album filled with solemn, introspective songs about family.
“We did a song and it came out really great, but Ryan and I looked at each other — ‘I don’t know. Coming out of the pandemic, I’m not sure this is a really great idea. I don’t know if anyone will be interested in music where you sit in the room alone and close the blinds.'”
Instead, “Lucky 7” became a record that embraces Shannon’s love of soul and funk music, and the Akron-area musician got a boost from some Mahoning Valley talent to make it a reality.
“I imagined ourselves getting in a time travel Uber to late ’60s Stax (Records),” Shannon said. “We didn’t rehearse a lot. If you put the right people in the right room and the right time and make them comfortable, you don’t have to worry about it. The magic happens.”
The one cover among the eight tracks is a radical reworking of Bad Company’s “Rock Steady.” It’s a song that Shannon would play during his live solo gigs that got a good reaction, and he decided to do a band arrangement in a similar vein.
“I was playing this old Gibson through a small amp, and it really grooved,” Shannon said. “But it kind of got stalled. It got to a place when it really needed something. It needed some help.”
He sent what he had to Jackie Popovec and Rick Deak of Youngstown’s The Vindys.
“Jackie did that call and response vocal, and it just makes the song for me,” he said. “I was at a point in the record when I needed a lift to get me up and over the hill, and I am so grateful she and Rick would take the time to do that for me. That pushed it over the finish line.”
They aren’t the only Vindys on the album. Ed Davis was the drummer for the sessions, and sax player Tim Harker and horn players Kyle O’Donnell and Brian Mayle also are featured.
Shannon’s band on the album also includes Kevin Martinez from The Speedbumps on bass, Jon and Bri Bryant of Welshly Arms on backing vocals and Kevin Young, Shannon’s bandmate in Michael Stanley & the Resonators, on keyboards and Hammond organ.
The song “Steady On,” released last August, is a tribute to Stanley, the Cleveland musician who died in March.
Shannon originally thought it would be a song they would write together. He sent the guitar lick to Stanley in the summer of 2020, something he often would do. Those ideas would get one of three responses. One option was no response at all, and Shannon knew what that meant. The second was, Naw, I’m not really feeling it.”
That lick got the third response — “I dig it. Let’s proceed.”
Stanley was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer the next month, and they never got a chance to work together on it.
“In early 2021 I was sitting down with my French press and my dog Martin sitting on the ground next to me, and the words just came out … It happened pretty quickly. I knew what it was about and what I wanted to do.”
Jennifer Lee, who sang alongside Stanley throughout his post-Michael Stanley Band career, sings on the track with Shannon.
He initially didn’t want to include it on the record. Shannon worried including a song about the beloved Cleveland musician on his own record would be viewed as opportunistic. Humbert convinced him otherwise.
“He told me, ‘You have to record this,’ and I took his lead.”
Shannon will be part of the Michael Stanley: A Celebration concerts this weekend at MGM Northfield Park (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday) and he said he expects them to be an emotional experience.
Those shows and a desire not to compete with all of the holiday events in December led Shannon to hold off his release party celebration until March 5, 2022, at Akron Civic Theatre’s Knight Stage. “Lucky 7” now is available on CD and digital download at marcleeshannon.com, and the vinyl release also should be ready in March.
“The Resonators always played Akron in March, Akron Civic or The Tangiers,” he said. “It felt right.”
And “celebration” is the right word to describe how Shannon views the event. The title “Lucky 7” has a very personal meaning to Shannon — he is seven years sober. Shannon hosts “Recovery Talks-The Podcast” (available at recovertytalks.org) and is training to become a peer recovery supporter, which certifies him to go into treatment centers and help others start the journey he continues.
“I wouldn’t be talking to you today about this record if that didn’t happen.”