Shannon McNally – The Waylon Sessions (Compass Records)
It takes a lot of courage to try and tackle an entire album’s worth of Waylon Jennings classics. But Shannon McNally’s pulls off the deed beautifully on The Waylon Sessions, managing to rework a number of Hoss’s songs into her own style while still holding true to that outsider streak that makes them so appealing in the first place.
McNally admits to having a longtime fascination with the Outlaw Country icon long before she ever went into the studio to record this one, appreciating his knack for managing to create both “defiantly existential but immediately accessible common man’s music.”
The record opens with “I’ve Always Been Crazy,” the title track from Jennings 1978 album, setting the tone for the rest of the album, keeping the heart and soul of the originals, but also approaching them with a slightly different interpretation. McNally also brings in a number of guests to help with the project, including Jennings’s widow Jessi Colter on “Out Among The Stars,” a track that’s been sung by Jennings, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard but sounds simply sublime on this duet.
Elsewhere, Buddy Miller helps out on “You Asked Me To,” Lukas Nelson guests on “You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine,” and Rodney Crowell lends a hand on a superb version of “Ain’t Living Long Like This.” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” is slowed down making for a sadder, original take on the well-known song and “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” has a concentrated passion few others could accomplish. The same can be said for the standout track “We Had It All.” McNally manages to match Jennings’s level of intensity on his 1973 version of the Troy Seals/Donnie Fritz track.
The CD version also includes two bonus tracks, “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” and “Waltz Me To Heaven.” The selection of tracks here are simply inspired – mixing in some if his lesser known songs with tracks that are synonymous with Jennings. The only song that really seems to be missing here is McNally’s take on “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want To Get Over You).” The perfect excuse for a follow up record.