Song premiere: Shannon McNally revisits a Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson classic
Shannon McNally isn't an Austinite, but the singer-songwriter who currently calls Nashville home has ties to the Live Music Capital. She's spent much of the past few years singing Texas songwriter Terry Allen's band alongside prominent Austin musicians such as Lloyd Maines and Charlie Sexton. And South Austin venue Sam's Town Point has became a local home base of sorts for McNally, a place for her to work out new material with her band in an intimate setting.
On May 28, Compass Records will release "The Waylon Sessions," an album of songs popularized by the late Waylon Jennings. The record features guest appearances by Jennings' widow, Jessi Colter, as well as Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller and Lukas Nelson.
Lukas's father, Austin icon Willie Nelson, gets a tip of the hat, too, via McNally's rendition of "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Written in the mid-1970s by Ed Bruce and Patsy Bruce, it topped the charts in 1987 when Nelson and Jennings recorded it for their "Willie & Waylon" album.
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We're premiering the track on Austin360 today. Here's what McNally had to say about her personal connection to the song:
"I’ve always heard 'Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys' as women’s lament. The original version, which was a gigantic era-defining hit for Willie and Waylon, was generally perceived as a rowdy cowboy call to arms, but I don’t hear it that way. To me it feels achy and lonely for the man you love, the same way it must feel being in love with a musician who is drawn to the road. It makes everyone miserable eventually. And boy, does it all double down when you start adding babies to the mix.
"When I stood up to the mic to record the song in the studio, I was a little surprised that it immediately brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. All the missing that I’ve done and all the loving that I’ve ever left suddenly merged into one lonely super feeling. I missed my mom and was sad thinking about all the rambling I’d done when she was alive, and how sad and proud it made her.
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"My own daughter is just now hitting the ground and coming into herself, and it sends shivers down my spine thinking how soon she’s going to leave me on her own wanderlust mission, and what a tough little show-no-pain wildly independent cowboy she is already at 12. I raised her that way, like my mother raised me. I’m sure I’m as proud of my daughter as my mother was of me, but it sure is hard when they start to ride away."