Mac McAnally’s career is truly one-of-a-kind: Despite growing up in rural Mississippi town where live music and dancing was outlawed, he became a professional musician by the time he was a teenager, eventually finding his way to the thriving studio scene in Muscle Shoals. After working on countless sessions there, bouncing between studios as an in-demand acoustic guitarist, he moved to Nashville to refine his songwriting. In Nashville, he found plenty of work: putting out solo albums, racking up 10 CMA Musician of the Year Awards, and writing songs for Sawyer Brown, Alabama, Kenny Chesney and other country greats. McAnally hasn’t exactly rested on his laurels: Since 1994, he’s been a member of Jimmy Buffett’s constantly-touring Coral Reefer Band.
On July 31, 2020, McAnally releases his latest solo album, Once in a Lifetime. It’s filled with great, reflective songwriting, but one track stood out to us, his cover of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” We were racking our brains trying to figure out the instrumentation when we reached out to Mac for a future episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Mac is using an instrument often discussed around these parts: An octave mandolin built by Bellingham-based luthier (and former FJ subject) Fletcher Brock.
McAnally found the octave mandolin the same way so many of us have, through the playing of Sarah Jarosz.
As for the cover?
“When you have a certain number of instruments in your house and you decide to get another one, [you] want to do something to justify that instrument,” he says. “I want it to light me up in some way.”. On this familiar tune, the octave mandolin serves as the perfect compliment to Mac’s baritone voice.
Look for Mac McAnally on the Fretboard Journal Podcast later this month.