Home Read Albums Of The Week: Shannon McNally | The Waylon Sessions

Albums Of The Week: Shannon McNally | The Waylon Sessions

The roots-music veteran puts her own spin on a slate of outlaw-country classics.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “With her new album The Waylon Sessions, the prolific and wide-ranging Shannon McNally set out to revisit the songs and spirit of Waylon Jennings, a legend with whom she’s always had an ongoing fascination. But her collection of tunes ended up being not so much a tribute as it is a recontextualization; a nuanced, feminine rendering of a catalog long considered a bastion of hetero-masculinity.

That’s not to say McNally has a softer, gentler take on Jennings’ songs — in fact, just the opposite. Over and over again, she manages to locate a smoldering intensity, a searing hurt buried deep within the music’s deceptively simple poetry, and she hones in on it with surgical precision on this new album, which features special guests like Jessi Colter, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell and Lukas Nelson.

As brilliant as the all-star band’s performances are on the album, it’s McNally that breathes new life into the music here, tackling the tunes with an honesty and a maturity that transcends genre and gender. She doesn’t swap pronouns or couch her delivery with a wink; she simply plays it straight, singing her truth as a divorced single mother in her 40s in all its beauty, pain, and power.

“When I listen to Waylon, I hear an adult,” says McNally. “He sounds like a grownup, and for a long time, I think being a grownup has been confused with being a man.“My goal wasn’t to force anything onto the music that wasn’t there already There’s a feminine perspective hidden somewhere inside each of these songs. My job was to find a way to tap into that and draw it out.” The result is that rare covers record that furthers our understanding of the originals; an album of classics that challenges our perceptions and assumptions about just what made them classics in the first place.

McNally has been mining the rich veins of American roots music for more than two decades now. Born and raised on Long Island, she has called New Orleans, Nashville, and Holly Springs home, but it was in Los Angeles that she first came to national attention in the early 2000’s with her album Jukebox Sparrows. Recorded with a murderer’s row of studio legends, the collection earned her slots on Letterman, Leno and Conan, and led to dates with Stevie Nicks, Robert Randolph and John Mellencamp, among others. A restless creative spirit with a magnetic personality, McNally has released a wide range of similarly lauded albums, EPs, and collaborations over the past 15 years, including the 2017 release Black Irish.”