If Mac McAnally never sang or played another note of music, his place in music history is more than assured. Writer, producer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all around musical sage, Mac has seen and done it all. Now he is back once again with a new and energizing album – Live in Muscle Shoals.
Recorded live from the Norton Auditorium at the University of North Alabama during the W.C. Handy Music Festival, Mac put together an incredible band of musicians consisting of fellow Coral Reefers and Muscle Shoals/Nashville session friends in which they captivated the audience. “Last summer the fine folks in charge of the W.C. Handy Music Festival asked me to play a show that ran the gamut of everything I’ve done,” Mac said. “In live performance you don’t have to look far for imperfections. I look at the imperfections as blessings too,” he added. “W.C. Handy made a career out of mixing influences from his surroundings and expressing them musically. I share that aspiration and hope to merit having shared the bill with his legacy on July 31, 2010 in his hometown of Florence, Alabama.” A master storyteller, Mac introduces each song with anecdotes, describing how the songs came to be and how they have impacted his life. Mac’s wit and love for life and music shine throughout. Live in Muscle Shoals includes his hits “Back Where I Come From”, “All These Years”, and “Down the Road”, as well as a cover of the ‘60s hit “I Heard It through the Grapevine”. The album serves as the perfect compliment to an incomparable career.
Music was the most obvious road for Lyman "Mac" McAnally to take from his Red Bay, Alabama birthplace and Belmont, Mississippi hometown. He was a guitar and piano prodigy who performed in clubs at 13, wrote his first song at 15 and landed as a Muscle Shoals studio musician at 18. Mac signed his first record deal, with Ariola, at 20 and launched two singles to moderate success on the Billboard Hot 100. "It's A Crazy World" peaked at No. 37 and "Minimum Love" topped out at No. 41.
His songwriting drew the attention of Jimmy Buffett and Hank Williams, Jr., both of whom cut McAnally songs. Alabama took his "Old Flame" to No. 1 in 1981. The song cemented his status as a hit maker, a reputation that has never waned. Reba McEntire, T.G. Sheppard, David Allan Coe, Shenandoah, Ricky Van Shelton, Charley Pride, Randy Travis and Steve Wariner are just some of the artists who cut Mac's songs over the next 20 years.
In the late '80s and '90s, McAnally became an in-demand producer, along the way working with Ricky Skaggs, Restless Heart, Chris LeDoux and Little Feat, among others. He produced the band Sawyer Brown through their biggest successes and penned their signature hits including "The Cafe On The Corner," "The Boys And Me" and "Thank God For You."
Meanwhile, Mac's skills as a musician continued to bring calls that carried him into the studio. Over the course of his career he's built an enviable registry of credits that includes Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Jr., Amy Grant, Jimmy Buffett, Travis Tritt, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dolly Parton and many more. And his guitar and vocal skills weren't confined to the studio as he joined Buffett's touring Coral Reefer band, an association that continues to this day. McAnally has also produced several of Buffett's albums and written many of his songs.
And even in the midst of creating a prodigious body of behind-the-scenes work, McAnally continued to make his own music. All told, he has recorded 11 albums, all for major labels. In fact, he was the first artist signed to David Geffen's legendary rock label Geffen Records.
His accomplishments are now beginning to be fully recognized. In 2007, McAnally was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The following year, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame followed suit, while the Country Music Association named him Musician of the Year for the last 4 years in a row. And, Mac continues to own and operate his own recording studio in Muscle Shoals.
So the question remains: Why? Why now? Why is his biggest success and notoriety as an artist happening after he's already achieved so much? McAnally is more than confirmed as one of the most accomplished and revered creative forces in the music business. He has nothing left to prove. Maybe this time, however, the music business has something to prove to Mac McAnally.