Shenandoah lead singer Marty Raybon is excited to be making new music again. The group’s latest release, “Reloaded,” is garnering generous radio play and represents a resurgence in popularity for the Grammy, ACM and CMA award-winning act from Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
The band will kick off Adams County Fairfest’s musical lineup with a show at 8:30 p.m. July 17 on the main stage of the fairgrounds. Featured material will include its latest singles, “Noise,” “That’s Where I Grew Up,” and “Little Bit of Livin’.”
“It’s been pretty exciting, to tell you the truth,” Raybon said of “Reloaded.” “Bringing back ’90s music has meant a great deal. It seemed like there were a lot of folks that were missing it.
“We tried to do it with the same angle, the same avenue, to try to record a record that would represent what we had done in the past. With record labels not signing older acts, the one thing it left us before was just to continue to do the shows we were doing with the songs we had. Music has changed a great deal, but the one thing that always remains tried and true is the impact of songs and what the songs did to people.”
It was with that mentality of familiarity in mind the band decided to cut its first record in more than 20 years in 2018. That the songs sound a lot like their earlier material is not by accident. But for some updated production value, they could be mistaken for earlier material. And that’s a big plus, he said.
“We’re hearing more and more that the songs sound like we’ve not gone anywhere,” he said. “It’s like we picked up right where we left off. It wasn’t that we went into the situation trying to find tunes that sounded like tunes we’d done. We’re just trying to find those kind of tunes people liked before and seemed to enjoy before. It’s what we know and what fans have always accepted and liked about what we represented.”
The band currently is putting the finishing touches to an as-yet unnamed concept record that will feature songs written by artists who have either lived in or performed in their hometown of Muscle Shoals. Though mostly instantly recognizable material, the band is adding its signature harmonies and arrangements to the songs in an effort to make them sound like Shenandoah originals.
Artists represented on the new release, which is slated to drop in January 2020, include Paul Simon and Bob Seager. The covers will fit in nicely with their tried-and-true originals that include, “The Church 0n Cumberland Road,” “Sunday in the South,” “Two Dozen Roses” and “Next to You, Next to Me.”
“The majority of these songs on this new project are such monsters that everybody is going to know them,” he said. “What we do is not the cure for cancer, and it’s certainly not brain surgery. We’re playing music and doing what we love to do and have the opportunity to do for folks who love to come out and see the show.”
While the group has certainly enjoyed revisiting and reviving its 26 charted singles and 13 No. 1 hits, its new music has served to open its window of popularity to a whole new audience of music-savvy listeners, many who now access their music online as opposed to records and CDs as in the past. In turn, the new music helps keep their live show fresh and new, something Raybon said is vital to keeping an audience wanting more.
“That’s what keeps it alive,” he said. “Where a lot of groups get into a lot of trouble is they get so far that they want to coast. And really that’s probably the most dangerous thing in the word for an artist. I don’t believe there’s ever any time you should coast.
“It’s important that you try to stay vibrant. You try to keep reinventing yourself and getting out to new people.”
As for a long-term plan, Rayborn said he and his band mates are hoping to simply keep making music for years to come. It’s what they know. And it’s what makes them happy, he said.
“We want to be older than the Rolling Stones when we quit,” he said. “I’m serious about that. I mean, we love it. They (the Rolling Stones) still love it.
“If those guys quit, they would die. If we quit, we would be some of the most miserable people that you’ve ever seen. We just would.”