REVIEW: Mac McAnally’s “Once In a Lifetime” is Batch of Musical Excellence


Mac McAnally – Once In a Lifetime 

Over the years I had LPs by great artists who disappeared (Michael Dinner, Alex Rozum, Gene Ryder, Heather Mullen, Dann Rogers, Emitt Rhodes, Greg Copeland). Or continued to record but were under the radar, like Dean Friedman, Mark Germino, Rob Jungklas, Robert Hazard & Mac McAnally.

I’m always pleased when one I thought was gone turns up with another batch of musical excellence. It doesn’t surprise me Alabama born Mac McAnally is still at it 43-years on. What bothers me is that he has to do it on his own. Majors aren’t interested in singer-songwriters unless they put thousands of asses in stadium seats consistently like Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan.

But judging from the fine packaging with 20pp color/stitched lyric book of Mac’s self-produced Once in a Lifetime — a 12-track on Mailboat Records – dropped July 31st this is music not to be ignored.

Mac’s won awards from 2007 through 2018. His name isn’t a household word like Garth Brooks or George Strait, but he’s in that arena. Garth & George know who he is.

Other artists cover his tunes (Kenny Chesney) & co-wrote with him. I’m getting reacquainted.

Up here in NYC I lost touch. Music’s overwhelming. I had his 1980 “Cuttin’ Corners LP but didn’t know he existed past that. I seldom read anything about him. But he’s released 17 LPs since his 1977 debut.

As a songwriter, with the passing of John Prine, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt — artists like that, Mac should move up. He’s a poignant storyteller, good singer & excellent musician. Cleverly written lyrics of the acoustically driven “Almost All Good” is dynamic. Mac (acoustic guitar/ bass/Wurlitzer/smoking electric guitar & mandolin) with Erik Darken (percussion) is delightful.

“Once in a Lifetime,” is a page from Prine. Mac is excellent. Co-written with Drake White (who sings lead on it) is also imaginative. Together they become a duo as potent as Lowen & Navarro.

Instrumentally, nothing’s overwrought. It’s primarily Mac & percussionist Eric. A full band does appear on a few tracks. “First Sign of Trouble,” has Mac in a more growly & spicy voice – a hat tip to Guy Clark.

Fine acoustic fingerpicking is displayed on the rich vocalizing of “That’s Why They Call It Falling.” Mac sounds like a country deep Fred Neil if folk singer Neil had sung country.

Reinvention — interpretation can be creative. Mac covers The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” & in less than 3-minutes, his youthful voice invigorates, his strumming an octave mandolin with Eric laying down percussion. The tune has a fullness that is commendable for 2 musicians working alone. “Good Guys Win,” is impressive since it’s just Eric & Mac again. Mac’s slight foray into sitar added to his expansive playing of acoustic, baritone guitar & octave mandolin is enviable.

I can play chess.

The 40-minute LP is available here: 


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