Mississippi native Mac McAnally is more comfortable behind the scenes rather than the bright spotlights. “Because of where I come from, I am so bashful,” McAnally told me during an interview in 2008. “In truth, I will not perform unless there's absolutely no one else on the stage. If there's a pet on stage, I will defer to that and become the side man.”
Despite his shyness, McAnally has spent quite a bit of time front and center.
In 2007, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was voted Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association.
He was called in by George Strait, the King of Country Music himself, to play on “It Just Comes Natural” and “Troubadour,” CMA’s 2007 and 2008 Albums of the Year
He wrote Kenny Chesney’s hits “Where I Come From” and “Down the Road.” For 30 years, he’s served as the music director for Jimmy Buffett’s annual touring carnival.
In between Buffett gigs, McAnally has been doing a one-man show. In his spare time he’s recorded “Down By The River,” a new CD, complete with 11 new songs, released Aug. 4 .
After spending some time listening to the album, it seems that McAnally decided to take his fans on a tour of the South where he was raised and the musical influences he’s experienced.
The CD opens with “Blame It On New Orleans,” a loving tribute to the Crescent City. The Dixieland beat makes you want to visit Preservation Hall.
The title tune and “On Account Of You” are nods to McAnally’s roots in gospel music of rural Mississippi. His mother was a church pianist who picked up work with traveling gospel groups.
“On Account of You” recognizes the contributions of everyday people who lend a hand to those in need – people who truly make a difference.
“If You Hang Around Long Enough” could have been written in any beer joint from Amarillo to Savannah. George Strait would be perfectly comfortable singing this one as the appreciative crowd two-stepped across the dance floor.
“Over and Out” should be the next single released by Asleep at the Wheel. The Western Swing number includes some great fiddle work by Aubrey Haynie and Larry Franklin.
“Nothing Like A Sunny Day,” has an island feel, reggae beat and all. Makes you want to go to the Florida Keys, kick off your shoes and cast your troubles onto the gentle waves.
McAnally takes a trip to Memphis with “Bound to Get Down [To the Blues].” With the very first note, the tune brings me back to Beale Street.
In “Big Disappointment,” McAnally heads to the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s a harmonica, banjo and a lot of wit in this song about the dangers of getting everything you want.
The sophisticated “Unresolved” would be at home on the iPod of any urban teenager who’s lived through a divorce. It would make a great cover for Keith Anderson’s powerful voice.
Of “Until Then,” McAnally says, “I think life is the best thing in the world. Nut just the good life, but all of it. Written at the guest house of Jimmy and Jane [Buffett], who understand making the most of life better than I do, but I’m working on it.”
McAnally saves the CD’s biggest emotional impact for “You First.” The song would be fitting for military services at any National Cemetery.
“This is a song about selflessness,” he said. “Nothing exemplifies it more for me than our troops. This song is for them.”
The song also touches on the loss of life-long friends. Now that I’ve reached middle-age and have been to several friends’ funerals, this song has special meaning, especially the final verse. ...
If you want to hear Southern stories, expertly told by one of the music industry’s best, pick up “Down By The River.”
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