Shannon McNally salutes Bobby Charles

Glenn Gamboa

Newsday columnist Glenn Gamboa Glenn Gamboa

Glenn Gamboa writes about music for Newsday.

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Shannon McNally wanted everything about her new album "Small Town Talk" (Sacred Sumac) to be right.

Even though the album -- a tribute to the late Bobby Charles, best known for his songs "Walking to New Orleans" and "See You Later, Alligator" -- was 90 percent completed in 2007, McNally waited until last month to release it because the Freeport native wanted to give it "a sound send-off."

"Everything has its time," says McNally, calling from a tour stop in Memphis. "The stars had to align on a project this special."

And now they have. McNally says she released two other albums on her own label before "Small Town Talk" so she would better understand the process. "Putting an album out yourself is a massive undertaking," she says. "It's like doing surgery on yourself."

"Small Town Talk," produced by Dr. John and featuring guest appearances from Vince Gill and Derek Trucks, was the result of the special friendship she developed with Dr. John and Charles after covering Charles' song "Tennessee Blues" on her 2005 album, "Geronimo."

McNally and Charles eventually grew so close that he would suggest songs of his for the project that he felt would suit her voice best.

"He would call and say, 'Shannon, there's this song, I think you'd like it. I've just got to find it. It's on a cassette. I think it's in my trunk,' " she recalls. "That would set him on a trip down memory lane. It's what every new artist hopes will happen when they work with a legendary artist. You find the treasures."

Shannon McNally plays Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St., Manhattan, Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 through the club, 212-539-8778, joespub.com.