Shannon McNally has announced the release next month of ‘The Waylon Sessions’, a new album that sets out to revisit the songs and spirit of Waylon Jennings, a legend with whom she’s always had an ongoing fascination. “I have always loved his defiantly existential but immediately accessible common man’s music and how it boogies,” says McNally. But her collection of tunes “ended up being not so much a tribute as it is a recontextualization; a nuanced, feminine rendering of a catalogue long considered a bastion of hetero-masculinity.”
The album features special guests like Jessi Colter, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell, and Lukas Nelson. “The world has changed a lot since these songs were first recorded,” says McNally. “I have never heard a woman sing any of them, but these tunes are poignant and relevant to me and to women in general right now. As a songwriter, bringing a song to its full potential so that a larger or different audience can connect is all I’ve ever cared about.”
When Blue Rose’s founder, Joe Poletto, asked McNally the question: “What would you do if you could do anything?” McNally answered, “An Album of Waylon.” “What Waylon Jennings brought to country music is what country music needs right now, and that unapologetic and vulnerable sense of self are what women are tapping into artistically right now as the industry evolves,” says McNally. “Because of the nature of this business, I’ve spent most of my life moving through a man’s world. I love men and I accept them for the complex critters they are, but when #MeToo started unfolding, I was hearing all these powerful stories and remembering all my own experiences, and I realized just how much of myself I’d been suppressing to get by. The system and the ways I’d learned to survive in it were cracking wide open, and suddenly I felt this freedom I’d never felt before.”
McNally assembled a band for the album including AMA-winning guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams), drummer Derek Mixon (Chris Stapleton), pedal steel legend and long-time Jennings bandmate Fred Newell, Texas keyboard mainstay Bukka Allen (Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker), and bassist Chris Scruggs (Marty Stuart, Charlie Louvin).
“My goal wasn’t to force anything onto the music that wasn’t there already,” explains McNally. “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.” Look out for a review next month on AUK.
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