With no less than 19 platinum or multi-platinum albums, more than 40 number one country singles and career album sales of over 65 million, Alabama is one of the 10 top-selling bands of all time and about as close to an institution as any contemporary country music act. Still, the proudly Southern foursome - which last year became only the fourth recording act to receive BMI's President's Award last year - was determined not to rest on its laurels when making its 23rd album, When It All Goes South.
According to lead singer Randy Owen, he and bandmates Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook and Mark Herndon were determined to make the album a career landmark. "A lifetime went into this record," Owen says. "When we started making this CD, I met with the producers and the guys in the band and said, 'We want this to be a Grammy-quality project.' You never know whether something's going to be commercially successful or not, so we just approached this completely from the standpoint of creativity. And I'm totally happy with what we did."
"It just about killed me," Owen says of the album's extended birth cycle, during which the group employed no fewer than seven record producers, including Owen and Gentry. "I put so much into this thing that I could not sleep at night. But it was a good kind of not sleeping. I would keep on thinking of things I wanted to do, arrangements I wanted to hear."
The care and effort is reflected in the album, which includes such personally charged material as Owen's autobiographical "Down This Road," along with the message-laden tunes "Start Living" and "You Only Paint the Picture Once." Elsewhere on the album, Owen duets with Canadian pop star Jann Arden on the tender ballad "Will You Marry Me," while Teddy Gentry teams up with solo star Christopher Cross on "Love Remains," and guitarist Jeff Cook steps out front to sing lead on the tropical-flavored "Wonderful Waste of Time."
The influential foursome made music history as the first self-contained band to achieve superstar status in the country world. They've consistently adapted to changing times without sacrificing their youthful, working-class spirit and rock-inflected energy.
"The main goal is to keep pleasing [our] fans," Owen states. "That's why we keep reinventing ourselves. We tried to approach this whole album from that standpoint. A lot has changed since we came into Nashville 20 years ago. Everything is a lot more business-like now. And that will take a lot of your creative energy away if you let it. We refused to let that happen with this project."