NEW YORK — What does it take to get country legends like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard on the same album? A 19-year-old newcomer named Mary Sarah.
Sarah’s debut album, “Bridges,” features duets with their original performers, including Parton and Nelson on their well-known country songs. It also includes one of Ray Price’s final recordings before he died last year.
Sarah was able to pull off the dream list of collaborators after meeting country singer-songwriter Freddy Powers, a close friend of Nelson and Haggard. Sarah, a Texas native, had performed throughout the Texas Opry circuit for years, mostly in Galveston and around Houston. She originally planned to record an album of covers from top Texas-based country singers.
“We took it to a couple people in Nashville and they said, ‘I don’t think you’re thinking big enough,’” said Sarah, who released the album independently Tuesday. “The idea wasn’t to have a legends project. ... What it turned into is really crazy and mind-blowing.”
Sarah eventually moved to Nashville, where she met Parton’s producer, who introduced her to the country diva. Other big names started rolling in, she said.
“It was miracle after miracle that these artists did this on a handshake,” she said.
“Bridges” also features Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap and Lynn Anderson. The big-voiced teen had been recording the album for two years, and she had kept the project “on the down low.”
Sarah will reach even further territory when she opens for Haggard on his tour starting Aug. 20 in Starkville, Miss.
Sarah, who now lives in Franklin, Tenn., said her follow-up album will be original songs. The blond beauty decided not to put her face on the cover of “Bridges,” which instead features the names of her collaborators.
“This project isn’t just about me,” she said. “It’s about the legends and bringing this to a newer generation.”