Marty Raybon Stays Cool Under Pressure
Marty Raybon Stays Cool Under Pressure

Former Shenandoah frontman talks recording two albums at once

Marty Raybon possesses one of the most respected voices in country music. Josh Turner and Rascal Flatts are two acts that have claimed him as influences in their career, and Garth Brooks once cited "I Want To Be Loved Like That" -- a hit that Raybon sang lead on as a part of Shenandoah -- as one of his favorites.

However, it's not just country fans that agree with that assessment. He has also put together a strong fan base in bluegrass and gospel music. That is a huge part of the reason that Raybon has not one -- but a pair of recently-released discs out on the Rural Rhythm label. He has just issued a new bluegrass disc Southern Roots & Branches, as well as a new gospel disc, Hand To The Plow. He told Billboard that while he was looking at just cutting a bluegrass disc, his label had another idea.

"Sam Passamano and all the wonderful folks at Rural Rhythm were wanting to start a Christian division with their label. He said 'I'd love to have you on board, but the first thing I would like to have you do is s gospel album.' I told him I wanted to do a bluegrass album, and he said 'I know you're wanting to do that, but with your Christian roots, I'd love for you to do this first."

As it turned out, word had leaked out that Marty had signed with the label, so both parties got their wish. "Lo and behold, we were in the process of mixing the Hand To The Plow album, when he said 'All of these folks at radio think we're coming with a bluegrass album first, so how quick can you get in the studio and get me some. I said 'I'll have to get some of my guys together, but I think we can turn it around pretty quick."

The process of putting together two different albums at once was different, but the singer rose to the challenge. "It was the quickest I've ever had to turn a recording around, but we always work better under pressure anyway, so it wasn't a big deal for us to do that."

One of the highlights of Southern Roots & Branches is a cover of "Home Run Man," a song made famous originally by Jimmy Martin. The song takes Raybon back.

"I was a big fan of his. I listened to an 8-track tape of his that my dad had of his. The first time I seen him, I didn't know who he was. We were down in Florida at a bluegrass festival, and here comes this guy wearing white boots, black pants, a paisley jacket, a red shirt, and purple hat. I thought 'Who in the world is this guy? He looks like a clown.' I was fourteen years old, and thought 'I've got to see this.' So, he takes the stage, and all of a sudden, Ken Clark steps up and says 'Ladies and gentlemen, here's Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys.' I thought 'THAT'S Jimmy Martin?' From that point on, I was smitten with his music. He was such a great entertainer. When he put on a stage show, he got into it and entertained those people."

He said he gained a lot from watching the legend. "I learned a lot of lessons from seeing him perform. We try to entertain folks the same way today."