Alabama lead singer Randy Owen has a lot to be excited about these days. The singer, along with cousins Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, is back on the road for the band’s “Back to the Bowery” 40th anniversary tour this year, which will take them to many cities, and even the high seas for a cruise scheduled for October. Last week, Show Dog-Universal announced the Aug. 27 release of “Alabama & Friends,” a multi-artist collaborative effort featuring many of the group’s biggest hits.
Owen told Billboard that he was humbled and honored that many of the format’s biggest stars, like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Florida Georgia Line, wanted to be a part of the project. “To have these young kids who like the songs that you did want to participate in a project like this is a very special event for us, and is something for us to enjoy.”
Check out the exclusive premiere of “All American,” one of two new Alabama songs off the album.
Kenny Chesney turned in a powerful version of the group’s 1983 chart-topper “Lady Down On Love” which caught Owen’s ear. “He sang the hell out of it. He’s kind of like my son, and to watch him grow up in the music business and have the success he’s had is a great thing. To have him like a song I wrote enough to sing it is very special to me,” he said.
Trisha Yearwood makes a return to recording on the album, covering the group’s 1990 ballad “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go.” The singer also had a history with the group, once serving as their opening act, and performing at one of their biggest yearly concerts in the June Jam in their hometown of Fort Payne, AL. “What was so cool about when I talked to her the first time was she remembered singing at the June Jam, and thanked me for that. That really touched my heart. To know that she is the big star that she is, and that she hadn’t forgotten about that meant a lot.”
The song that brought the group their first top-20 hit, “My Home’s In Alabama,” gets an update from an artist who shares their home state — Jamey Johnson. Owen has a vivid memory of seeing the singer live for the first time. “It was at the Bluebird,” he recalled. “I studied the way he did ‘My Home’s In Alabama,’ and he knew the song better than I did. It was really moving for me, and I knew he had an incredible voice.” It’s not the first time that Johnson has worked with a member of the group. He wrote “Stars In Alabama” with Gentry on his 2008 masterpiece “That Lonesome Song.”
The band also contributed a pair of new recordings to the project. Owen says that the guys were glad to get back into the studio, and share the moment with a key component of the Alabama success story. “It was incredible. We got to go back in the studio with Harold Shedd, the gentleman we shared so much success with over the years, and to have him produce with us. It was like such a positive and happy reunion. It touched my heart to know that he was going to be a part of it.” Shedd produced Alabama from 1980 to1988.
Both of the new songs, “All American” and “That’s How I Was Raised,” will be of interest to their longtime fan base. Of the latter, Owen stated “It’s like a pure Alabama song. I changed some of the lyrics to fit what we were about better. It’s a really cool song, one that I hope the fans will like.”
Track listing for “Alabama & Friends,” along with guest artists:
1. “Tennessee River,” Jason Aldean.
2. “Love in the First Degree,” Luke Bryan.
3. “Old Flame,” Rascal Flatts.
4. “Lady Down on Love,” Kenny Chesney
5. “The Closer You Get,” Eli Young Band.
6. “Forever’s as Far as I’ll Go,” Trisha Yearwood.
7. “She and I,” Toby Keith.
8. “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),” Florida Georgia Line
9. “That’s How I Was Raised,” Alabama.
10. “All American,” Alabama.
11. “My Home’s in Alabama,” Jamey Johnson.