Alabama's Back!

The music of country superstars Alabama have reached at least two generations of fans. For those of us who grew up in the band’s heyday of the 1980s, everything they touched – from “Mountain Music” to “Love In The First Degree” to “Take Me Down” – turned to gold and platinum. For me, Alabama epitomized country crossover, recording great songs that transcend genre without watering down their country roots.

In their stellar career they managed to top the country charts 33 times – including 21 consecutive #1 hits – and cross over to the pop charts five times between 1981 and 1999. When they retired in 2004, millions of fans hope it would only be temporary. And now Alabama is back with a new album.

Randy Owen, Jeff Cook, and Teddy Gentry are back together, out on tour playing to thousands every night and releasing a new album of duets this week called “Alabama & Friends.” And after more than four decades, they feel dusted with good fortune.

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The group makes its return as country reaps the benefits of the doors they kicked open back in the late 1970s and ’80s when they helped move the genre from the state fair and community center circuit into a local arena near you.

“We brought a lot of rock principles as far as live shows to the country music arena for the first time as far big sound systems, moving lights,” Cook said. “We played hard even though we were playing country music. Looking back, we were renegades at the time — tennis shoes, T-shirts, long hair — it’s no different than today.”

Alabama, in fact, is counted as one of country’s most beloved acts 15 years after its last hit single. Content to sit it out over much of the last decade, the band decided to give it another go after coming back together to organize a benefit for tornado victims in their home state last year.

Alabama & Friends includes duets with current hot country artists like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, and Luke Bryan (clearly aiming for the soccer mom demographic), along with country stalwarts like Trisha Yearwood and Jamey Johnson. The new record is part of a celebration of the band’s 40th anniversary and included two brand new Alabama tracks. Here’s hoping for another 40 years of top-notch country music from these amazing musicians.