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Marc Lee Shannon: Sideman in the spotlight

The longtime guitarist for Michael Stanley & The Resonators talks about his second solo CD, “Walk This Road,” and backing up Stanley in the band that plays Rockin’ on the River in Lorain Saturday.

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    Michael Stanley and Marc Lee Shannon at the House of Blues.

    JOE KLEON

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    Singer/songwriter/guitarist Marc Lee Shannon has released his second solo CD, "Walk This Road."

    Jamie Escola/Tiltawhirl Photography

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  • Marc-Lee-Shannon-1

    Jamie Escola/Tiltawhirl Photography

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When Michael Stanley & the Resonators play Rockin’ on the River Saturday, many in the audience won’t be hearing Stanley’s music for the first time. The songs “Rosewood Bitters,” “My Town,” “The Job,” “Midwest Midnight” and dozens more are the soundtrack of our collective psyche. Other than the Browns and Indians, arguably nothing is more emblematically ours.

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Guitarist Marc Lee Shannon has been in the Resonators lineup for 23 years. He also performs with Stanley in the Midlife Chryslers and is playing club dates to promote his second solo CD, “Walk This Road.”

“I have no idea how the universe landed me here,” Shannon said recently about his tenure in the Resonators. “All I want to do is hold up my side of the stage and play those songs with as much integrity as I can. It’s an honor.” 

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Jamie Escola/Tiltawhirl Photography Enlarge

Shannon left Ohio at 19 to attend the Guitar Institute of Hollywood. For about a decade he was a player-for-hire with a list of stage and studio credits including the Rave-Ups, Lone Justice and scores of “ghosting” gigs for bands, films and jingles. Fast-forward to 2018 and he’s been back in Ohio for more than a decade, he’s a former music business executive, a divorced father of three sons and a respected Stanley sideman and singer/songwriter. He’s also a recovering alcoholic who volunteers as a sobriety coach at an Akron hospital. All are life passages that form the narrative backbone of his solo work.

If you go

Michael Stanley & the Resonators
Saturday 8//25/18
(8:45 p.m.) w/ The Juke Hounds (6:15 p.m.)
Rockin’ on the River - Black River Landing
Tickets $15 advance/$25 DOS

Marc Lee Shannon Solo Shows
8/27/2018
Summer Splash in the Square
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m
Cleveland Foundation Centennial Square
Free

8/29/2018
DBA Restaurant
6-9 p.m
Akron

8/31/2018
Hard Rock Cafe
10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Northfield Park
Free, must be 21

In the dozen tracks of “Walk This Road” are hints at the depths of addiction, tales of recrimination and lost love and a funny kiss-and-tell or two. The record also shows off a sideman’s facility with musical styles. The title track is a guitar-driven rocker. “Carousel,” has the syncopated stomp of a Delta blues number and Shannon’s alt-country roots come through with the help of evocative pedal steel echoes on “If We Quit Now” and “Sound of a Train,” which was co-written with Stanley.

“It’s about transformation,” Shannon said. He recalled hearing Stanley’s reworked version of the song shortly after leaving detox.

“He’ll say it’s my song, that he helped, but the changes he made, I think really made it what it is.

“I heard his version it was so meaningful to me because of where I was in my life. It was almost like my universe or my higher power was saying to me, ‘This is what you need to be doing. This is where you need to go.’ ”

So Shannon left the corporate world, ditched a closet full of corporate suits and sold what he calls ‘the McMansion.’

“I knew I wanted to live a much smaller life.”

(Click the audio link at the bottom of the story to hear “Sound of a Train.”)

“Walk This Road” was recorded in six days at Superior Sound in Cleveland and was produced by Ryan Humbert, who Shannon credits with moving the songs out of a folder and into the studio.

“I took a bunch of songs to his house. We just sat on his porch and I played.

“As a writer, you just pour it out from your heart, and you’re just thinking, ‘Maybe this is just mindless drivel or sassy dreck.’

“Ryan convinced me.”

Humbert said the quality of the songs were obvious, even stripped down to Shannon’s vocal and acoustic guitar. “What I saw was a guy who had some bruises on him, who had gotten sober and gotten a divorce and had this batch of songs. And from the get-go, I could hear the light that was in them. Song after song they were just solid, well written, sturdy songs.”

The collaboration between the two continued for months, passing demos back and forth and deciding on the treatment or what Humber describes as “the shape the songs should take.” Then the lineup for the band became clear at a benefit Humbert organized following the death of Tom Petty.

“Marc was part of (the benefit). We had been talking about putting a band together and getting some studio time booked. We literally were on stage and the house band was playing. I walked over to him and said, ‘These are our guys. These are the right guys who will know exactly what to do with your songs.’ ”

In addition to Shannon and Humbert, musicians on the record include: John Anthony (guitars), Ed Davis (drums/percussion), Kevin Robert Martinez (bass), Russ Flanagan (keyboards), Emily Bates (background/harmony vocals), Ray Flanagan (guitar), Al Moss (pedal steel guitar), Bri and Jon Bryant (background vocals).

The lineup comes from a deep bench of popular Northeast Ohio acts including Humbert’s Shooter Sharp & The Shootouts, The Vindys, Ray Flanagan & The Authorities and The Speedbumps.

“We wanted it to be real musicians playing together in the same room at the same time. Nobody does that anymore,” Shannon said. “Sometimes I sang six full vocals in one day. Everybody read charts. Everybody did their homework. There wasn’t more than two or three takes on anything.”

Although it’s his second solo release (“Any Ordinary Man,” produced by Stanley, came out in 2006), this is the first time Shannon has toured to promote his solo work.

“In 2018 and 2019, my plan is just to play locally and then start expanding into Columbus, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Detroit and build from there. I understand that a lot of bands believe they need to get into a trailer and cargo van and play their songs around the country. I get that, but I don’t think that’s right for me right now.”

At Rockin’ on the River at Black River Landing on Saturday, Shannon will switch back into sideman mode with the Resonators, which is a full show of  Stanley’s favorites.

“I saw Jeff Lynne (in Detroit), and I kept wondering if he’d do any Tom Petty. He co-wrote ‘Free Fallin’‘ and ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ “ Shannon said, “but he didn’t do any of that because his job was to give every single person in Little Caesar’s Arena the best memory of the Electric Light Orchestra that he could give them.

“Our job with the Resonators is to give everybody the best Michael Stanley experience they can get, and I am proud to do it. When people hear ‘Lover,’ or when they hear ‘Midwest Midnight,’ they go back in time and, for a brief moment, we’re all transformed.”

Transformation is a word that keeps coming up when you talk to Shannon about his life or his work. He marks Nov. 10, 2014, as his sobriety date, even though the physical detox happened months earlier.

“Most people wouldn’t know I had a problem, and they are surprised to find out that it was as bad as it was. It’s really a thinking problem. The synapses have to figure out how to work again. It takes a while to get sorted.

“I was lucky to work with some really great, dedicated people,” he said, “and that’s who I dedicated the record to.”

“Walk This Road” is Shannon’s path so far. He said he believes that the best years of his journey are still to come.

Kymberli Hagelberg is the Assistant Managing Editor for Digital and Audience. She is a former Assistant Editor at Cleveland Scene and has been published in Billboard, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal.  Contact her at (440) 506-8800 or khagelberg@chroniclet.com, follow her on Twitter @khagelbergct

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    Marc Lee Shannon "Sound of a Train"



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