Mac McAnnaly

Tickets: $20/$25 DOS You can look far and wide throughout the music world, but you’ll never find anyone more deserving of respect and acclaim than Mac McAnally. You’ll also never find anyone who feels more awkward about accepting kudos from his many admirers. It’s not like he’s a stranger to the spotlight. He’s been releasing albums since he was 20 years old – this being his 13th so far. He’s experienced the heady thrill of topping the singles charts, in a duet recording of his composition “Down the Road” with longtime pal Kenny Chesney. He’s also written several No. 1 hits, beginning with Alabama’s “Old Flame.” His star shines even brighter among music business insiders. For years a first-call musician in both Nashville and Muscle Shoals, he has amassed vast session credits with George Strait, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, Keith Whitley, George Jones, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Billy Joel, Trisha Yearwood, Reba … really, it’s probably easier to list who Mac hasn’tplayed with since he started doing studio dates in the late ’70s. His peers have voted him CMA Musician of the Year for an unprecedented eight years in a row. He’s a member of the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. It’s gotten to the point where he can’t even drive down Second Street in his old hometown of Belmont without seeing his name on a marker, honoring him along with Jimmie Rodgers, Marty Stuart and a few other legends along the Mississippi Country Music Trail. All of that would swell anyone’s head but McAnally’s. His humility is nearly as well known as his many accomplishments — a fact he humorously acknowledges in the title of his new album, scheduled for Sept. 11 release on Mailboat Records. “William Faulkner once said something about wishing that it would be only the artist’s work, not the artist, who might be judged,” he says. “I agree with him, so A.K.A. Nobody is what I call the album. It’s not that I think I’m uninteresting, but I have never been comfortable saying, ‘Hey, look at me!’ I just would like somebody to hear this music and say, ‘This is good work.’” Even that is a modest aspiration for this collection. Appropriately for one who has written, produced and performed for artists of varied temperament, A.K.A. Nobody is a rare achievement — a rainbow of styles illuminating McAnally’s singular gifts. The opening track, “A Little Bit Better,” written with Chris Stapleton, is an easy-on-the-ears amble that reflects on self-improvement — again, a sign of McAnally’s self-deprecation as well as his inherent optimism. What follows is as diverse as the sights along the Mississippi Country Music Trail: “Last But Not Least,” a sweetly harmonized meditation created with Zac Brown Band on losses incurred despite “good intentions” … “Don’t Remember Leaving,” penned by McAnally during a lonely layover in Singapore … “Someday,” an intricately crafted and arranged rumination on the uncertainties of life (“Things will be better one day — possibly never”) … and “Working Prayer,” whose beautiful detailing, whispered harmonies and honesty (“I want to believe I have something more to offer … “) add up to a revealing portrait of this exceptional artist and human being. There’s much more on A.K.A. Nobody. McAnally unfurls soulful piano chops on several tracks, including “Place Where You Belong,” written with Al Andersen, and “Better Get The Story Straight.” (In a rare acknowledgment of a job well done, McAnally admits, “This one sounds better than it sounded in my head. That’s me trying to play like my mom, who was a great gospel piano player.”) He offers his take on his performance of “Island Rain,” a song he wrote with Kenny Chesney years before, and does the same with a different tune penned with Jimmy Buffett.

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