Nashville-based singer/songwriter Mac McAnally is best known as a member of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band and for writing such hits as Alabama's "Old Flame," but he has also been a recording artist in his own right since 1977. With "Once in a Lifetime," McAnally delivers social commentary with a sense of nostalgia and a biting sense of humor. In "Almost All Good," McAnally laments that we are "living in the misinformation age" in which communication has become increasingly more difficult ("Don't seem to matter what we talk about/Just trying to wear that First Amendment out").
The ballad "Just Right" (co-written with Will Kimbrough) has a Buffett feel to it ("Sunny beaches that I love the most/Sweet memories and friendly ghosts"), as does understandably the Buffett collaboration "Changing Channels" ("There's an island in the ocean/Where the people stay in motion"). The lone cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" highlights McAnally on mandolin and is driven by Eric Darken's percussion, while the following track "Good Guys Win" keeps The Beatles' vibe going with McAnally on electric sitar as well as bass, mandolin and multiple guitars.
McNally's humor is best displayed on the bluesy "First Sign of Trouble," reminiscent of Shel Silverstein in which the singer calls out his own cowardice ("You can call me chicken/I don't give a cluck/First sign of trouble/Won't see hide nor hair of me"). Other highlights are the country ballad "Just Like it Matters" featuring Paul Franklin on steel guitar and the bluegrass flavored "Brand New Broken Heart" with Aubrey Haynie on fiddle.
Produced by McAnally the backing is stellar throughout provided mostly by the multi-instrumentalist himself. With McAnally's strong compositions and smooth vocals "Once in a Lifetime" is an entertaining and compelling effort.