McAnally notes that he typically sees three kinds of people at his shows: Those who have followed his career since his 1977 debut album; those who recognize him as the guitarist in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band; and those who remember his notable credits in country music. The latter category is particularly impressive, with songs cut by Alabama (“Old Flame”), Kenny Chesney (“Back Where I Come From”), Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”), Shenandoah (“Two Dozen Roses”) and many others.
For his new album, Once in a Lifetime, Mac McAnally is indeed doing something he’s never done before. To reflect the intimacy of his concerts, he arranged most of the material around guitar and percussion – yet he acknowledges that several of its tracks outgrew that simple set-up. And while many of the songs are new, he chose to include a few originals dating back to the early 2000s that seemed like a good fit. So, with 12 songs pulled from different decades and musical directions, what ultimately ties all these tracks together? Simply put, it is McAnally’s ability to see the silver lining, a perspective he’s carried on his journey from being a shy, small-town kid from Mississippi, to working as a teenage studio musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to becoming one of Nashville’s most respected (and self-effacing) singer-songwriters. Once in a Lifetime captures every aspect of his musical vision.