Recorded with an all-star band and featuring special guests Jessi Colter, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell and Lukas Nelson, Shannon McNally's extraordinary new collection, The Waylon Sessions, is not so much a tribute to Waylon Jennings as it is a recontextualization: a nuanced, feminine rendition of a catalog long considered a bastion of straight masculinity. That's not to say that McNally's interpretation of the songs of Jennings and his fellow outlaws is softer and gentler; quite the opposite.
Time and again, she manages to locate a smoldering intensity - a searing pain buried deep within the music's deceptively simple poetry - and she focuses it with surgical precision. McNally doesn't switch pronouns or paraphrase her delivery with a wink; she's simply honest, singing her truth as a divorced single mother in her 40s in all its beauty, pain and power.
The result is a rare covers record that furthers our understanding of the originals, an album of classics that challenges our perceptions and assumptions about what made them classics in the first place.
Article properties: Shannon McNally: The Waylon Sessions (CD)