Alabama Preview the Mountain Music of ‘Southern Drawl’ Album
Arguably the most influential country band in history, Alabama are set to return September 18th with their first album of originals in 14 years. Called Southern Drawl, the project finds the Country Music Hall of Famers “getting off the porch” with a sound that revives the magic of country in the Eighties and Nineties.
The band’s three core members (and cousins) — lead singer Randy Owen, guitarist Jeff Cook and bassist Teddy Gentry — see the album as a labor of love, and tell Rolling Stone Country they were inspired to make new music after realizing fans wanted them back.
“Getting out here and touring like we have for a few years, seeing the response from the crowd, selling the tickets that we are, we realized there’s still a lot of fan interest and support out there,” says Gentry. “When you’re away from it for 11 or 12 years, you start wondering if you’re still relevant or not. But I think after getting back out there, one step led to another.”
Their relevance should not have been in question, really. Alabama was the band that shook up the status quo of their day, much like their acolytes Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line are doing now. Playing instruments on their own records, incorporating a rock influence, wearing casual street clothes and essentially inventing the idea of a country band — along with staging massive concerts with lights and sound that would rival anything in any other genre — Alabama laid the groundwork for country’s mainstream explosion.
Those days were long ago, though, and the bandmates are frank about encountering some obstacles on their way back into the fold, like getting in shape vocally. Famous for their stunning three-part harmonies, the band had to dig deep to revive their signature sound. Plus, nothing will ever compare to the clout they once commanded.
“We had a deadline for this one,” Gentry explains. “That was one of the things we got used to in the Eighties and Nineties: we’d have an unlimited budget. We never had anybody say, ‘You’re on the clock. You gotta be through in an hour-and-a-half.’ That was tough on this album. . . But to me, we’re doing the same thing and taking the same approach as we did in the Eighties and Nineties, where you work hard to find the very best songs you can, and try to make a great record out of a great song.”
The band was given the chance to produce the album completely themselves, though, and they say their record label never heard a track until the whole thing was finished. They wrote about half of the songs and sourced the rest from outside songwriters on Nashville’s Music Row, coming up with a stylistically and emotionally diverse set of 13 tracks. With an undeniable air of Southern authenticity, Southern Drawl is at times charming, tender, lighthearted and defiant.
“Wasn’t Through Loving You Yet” is a very current-feeling, mid-tempo song, “Hillbilly Wins the Lotto Money” offers a splash of absurdity and “Footstompin’ Music” does its title justice with help from a stomp-clap beat. Cook and Gentry each sing lead on their own tracks, and the guys say they were never trying to capture a particular modern sound — just something true to each story.