The country music band Alabama needs no introduction. To list the numerous awards and #1 hits that the three members of the group, Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook, have attained is unnecessary; suffice it to say that Alabama is the most successful country music band to date. Anyone who has tuned into a country music station since the early ‘80’s is familiar with tunes such as Dixieland Delight, Mountain Music, and My Home’s in Alabama; songs that have become emblematic for those with a deep, abiding love for all things Southern. After 14 years, Alabama has released an album of new songs, Southern Drawl, and the group hopes the new music will illicit the same emotional response in the fans as their previous recordings.
Back in 2002, Alabama announced its retirement from the road, embarked on a Farewell Tour the following year, and stayed relatively under the radar for a number of years. When the deadly tornadoes ripped through the state of Alabama in 2011, however, the group came back together to give benefit concerts to help with relief efforts in their home state. Following a gospel album and the success of a few shows on the road, (the group was surprised that people still cared enough about their music to come out for a concert) Gentry, Cook, and Owen decided the time was right for an album of new country music.
The result? Southern Drawl is a fun mix of foot-stompin party songs, tunes with “in-your-face pride” about being from the country, and beautifully harmonized ballads reminiscent of Alabama’s earlier work. For an added treat, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is selling a deluxe edition of the album with two extra tracts, available in their stores and online at crackerbarrel.com.
In a recent phone conversation with bassist and singer/songwriter Teddy Gentry, he talked about putting out new material after so many years, and why Alabama’s music is still timely.
SL: Was it scary to put out a new album after all these years? Were you worried that the fan base wouldn’t be there anymore?
Gentry: You can’t worry about what anyone else thinks. We loved being in the studio again…you just do what you love, do the best job you can, and hope that folks like it. If they don’t, there is nothing you can do about it. When you’re away from it for 11 or 12 years like we were, you do start wondering if you’re still relevant or not. But, again, that’s just something you can’t control.
SL: Some of your older songs, like “Dixieland Delight” and “My Home’s in Alabama,” have become anthem songs; the children of your original fans are singing them. Why do you think the music has remained so popular?
Gentry: Man, that is hard to say. Our music has always just been about singing from the heart…it can be a fun song, or a sentimental song, but it’s true to who we are. We love where we’re from and I guess that comes out in our music, too, and people can relate to that. But it is cool to see young kids singing and playing our music after all this time.
SL: What are your thoughts on the changes in the country music genre in the last few years?
Gentry: Change is just a fact of life. When we first started out, there were folks saying we weren’t really country. There we were wearing T-shirts and tennis shoes; and bands weren’t really big, it was just solo acts…no, we weren’t really country. But now we are considered country and something else is cutting edge. That is just how the pendulum swings, it all balances out in the end.
SL: With a lot of years and wisdom under your hat, what would you tell a young person starting out in the business?
Gentry: Be a leader, not a follower. Stay true to what you believe in and the kind of music you want to play. Don’t get sucked into a certain style, don’t conform, just to sell records…just do, and be, your own thing.