Do you remember back in 1985 when the Coca-Cola Company unveiled the “New Coke.” It didn’t last long – as most of the soft drink’s longtime customers were perfectly content with what was. I hate to say it, but there are times that on Southern Drawl – Alabama’s first all-new studio record since 2001 – that I am reminded of “New Coke.” On some of the tracks, there’s a new Alabama sound – I guess you might call it a little more modern.
Take the title cut, for example. The production is very much in-your-face, and sounds like something Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan would do. And, there’s nothing wrong with that – for Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean. But, it seems a little bit hokey for my ears, compared with such classics as “Tennessee River” and “Mountain Music.” Then, there’s the “Hillbilly Wins The Lotto Money,” which is pretty charming for a novelty record, but that’s something that Alabama never did back in the 80s and 90s.
So, you might think I am saying “You can’t go home again.” Not exactly. I am just saying that it’s gotta be tough trying to come up with something relevant to today’s listeners when you have such a classic catalog that you’re competing with. See, it’s not just Aldean or Bryan that you’re vying for air time with, but also many of your 40-plus No. 1 hits. So, you need to bring you’re A-game, but it’s a difficult line to walk.
That being said, there are many moments on this album that are Pure Alabama. “Footstompin’ Music” brings to mind such classic album cuts as “Gonna Have A Party” or “Down On The River.” They tap into a rural sentiment on “American Farmer” that works quite well, as the weariness of “Back To The Country.”
And, then…there are the ballads. In a catalog that includes such hits as “Feels So Right,” “There’s No Way,” and the seasonal favorite “Angels Among Us,” there’s a pretty high standard for a slow song that has the name Alabama attached to it. Needless to say, they deliver. Songs like “One On One,” “Come Find Me,” and “Wasn’t Through Lovin’ You Yet,” which sizzle with a bit of that Randy Owen sensuality. But, perhaps the sweetest moment on the album is the gorgeous “I Wanna Be There,” which is definitely a grab-your-Kleenex type song that will rip your heart to pieces.
Longtime fans might feel the urge to take a few shots at me for the first paragraph here, but overall this album is definitely a welcome return to what one of the greatest bands in Country Music history does so well…and nobody is happier to have them back than me. Hopefully, they won’t make it 14 more years before their next album!
Let me know what you think @ChuckDauphin on Twitter.