Shannon McNally recently released a stunning album, The Waylon Sessions, featuring songs made famous by Waylon Jennings. On it, she proved to have serious pipes for singing country music. There’s not much you can fake in country music; the vocals are always front-and-center, and the instrumental parts are clean and not hidden in a wall of sound. It’s one reason why country ballads always seem to have just a bit more power and heartache than pop ballads. Oh, and to really sell a ballad, I’ve always been of the opinion that it takes a special voice. McNally has that gift, and she parades it around on “Help Me Make It Through the Night” like she’s the new Patsy Cline or something.
Kris Kristofferson wrote the classic tune back in 1969, and it appeared on his debut album, Kristofferson, in 1970. Many artists have tackled this ode to male sexual desire, including Sammi Smith, who had the most popular version reaching eight on the pop charts. McNally takes it back to the pure country and announces herself as a serious country singer. Her voice is strong and powerful, while also dancing delicately around the notes as she conveys her heartfelt emotions. McNally’s take is smoldering and glorious, and she also converts that male desire into a like-minded female desire in her stunning rendition.
McNally tells PopMatters that the song is “a masterpiece. A mountain of a song. I never heard Waylon sing this one. I don’t think he recorded it either. I cut it because I wanted to and I wasn’t in the mood for asking permission at the time, which seemed in keeping with Waylon’s modus operandi. When we were tracking it we were definitely aware of having to somehow bring something new or brave to it. I mean, this is a song where you either put up or shut up. We talked about the desperation and losing battle of closing time. The fellas are all barely playing their instruments and I tried to put as much reediness as I could get on my voice. Making a video for this song was a whole other level of vulnerability. I thought of it as a three-minute Sam Peckinpah film to make it as raw and fresh as it deserved to be.”
McNally has a Country Music Hall of Fame “Live at the Hall” episode that will air in late July. She was also added to the Ghost Ranch Festival in New Mexico celebrating pioneering women in the arts along with Carlene Carter, Valerie June, Neko Case, and Margo Price.
THE WAYLON SESSIONS Tracklisting:
1. I’ve Always Been Crazy
2. You Asked Me To – feat. Buddy Miller
3. Out Among The Stars – feat. Jessi Colter
4. You Show Me Yours And I’ll Show You Mine – feat. Lukas Nelson
5. Black Rose – feat. Buddy Miller
6. This Time
7. I Ain’t Living Long Like This – feat. Rodney Crowell
8. I’m A Ramblin’ Man
9. Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
10. Help Me Make It Through The Night
11. We Had It All