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Mac McAnally

Down By The River – 2009 (ShowDog Nashville)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Mac McAnally

Mac McAnally has been in the music industry as a songwriter, producer, and studio musician since the 1970s, working with Alabama (he penned their hit,Old Flame), Jimmy Buffet (as part of his Coral Reefers band), Amy Grant, Dolly Parton and Roy Orbison. McAnally has recorded 11 albums of originals, which were unable to compete with the 20-something, pop-country singing, coifed performers popular today. That changed when he teamed with Kenny Chesney for their number one single, Down the Road.

Working with such diverse artists has obviously influenced his own music. This cluster of contrasting songs artfully blends swing (Over and Out), big band (Blame It On New Orleans), honky tonk (If You Hang Around Long Enough) and reggae (Sunny Day).

The first single, aptly titled You First, is a heart-rending ode to the selflessness of an American soldier. One soldier allows another to take his place on a chopper that has only room for one, and knowingly denies his own life in the process.

The swampy gospel number Down By the River is a standout, as is the sentimental On Account of You. Blame It On New Orleans is a feel-good album opener, blaming New Orleans for having great music, people and food.

Overall, his voice is warm and welcoming, much like Alabama's Randy Owen, but he gives his songs the spotlight. "Son, the secret of my overnight success... is 20 years and nothing less," sings McAnally. Good thing the music industry hung around long enough to appreciate the real stuff.