Some of country music’s essential recordings have been live albums. “Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in Concert,” “Ernest Tubb Live at the Spanish Castle,” “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison,” “Waylon Live,” “Willie Nelson and Family,” and “Buck Owens at Carnegie Hall” all represent defining moments in the genre’s history. It was Garth Brook’s 1998 “Double Live” that captured the sales shattering and pop culture explosion of music in the nineties – it currently holds the RIAA title as country music’s best-selling album. The magic of Shenandoah’s latest release, “Reloaded,” is that it showcases a pivotal resurgence in the thirty-year career of one of country’s most successful vocal groups.
In mid-2018, we’ve seen Tim McGraw and Faith Hill continue to shatter box office sales, David Lee Murphy return to the top of the Billboard charts after a twenty-three-year lapse, and performances by superstar acts Reba, Alan Jackson, and Toby Keith eclipse all at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. While gold records and radio play may reach a peak, time can’t erase the feelings evoked from the timeless classics of years gone by. It’s why “The Voice” contender Lauren Duski chose to perform “Ghost in this House” during the semi-finals of the hit show. Or why Miranda Lambert penned “Another Sunday in the South,” a sampling of the band’s 1989 hit, for her Grammy and CMA winning “Platinum” album.
“Reloaded” is an impressive collection that boasts some of the biggest and most beloved songs from the 80s and 90s. There’s an ACM Single of the Year nominee, five chart-topping hits, and four singles that hit the top ten. In fact, the songs featured on “Reloaded” have collectively spent 193 weeks perched on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Founding members Marty Raybon and Mike McGuire are completely immersed in the album’s promotion. Most recently they have hit the CMT Music Awards red carpet, appeared at CMA Fest signing autographs for endless lines of dedicated music lovers, and letting fans into their world through social media updates. Give them a follow on Instagram and find the video where they discuss a common misheard lyric from “Church on Cumberland Road” – chances are you’ve been singing it incorrectly all these years, too.
Enough can’t be said about the band’s arrangements on the tracks featured on “Reloaded.” They are fresh without losing the original style. And those vocals from Marty Raybon? He’s still one of the superlative voices in country music, proven by his performance on “Sunday in the South.”
When you’ve been together for over thirty years, there will be notable songs that don’t make the setlist, but “Reloaded” is filled with all the classics. Some of the most prolific writers have had a hand in the band’s catalog. Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members Bob DiPiero (The Church on Cumberland Road), Mac McAnally (Two Dozen Roses), and Bob McDill (If Bubba Can’t Dance) all have cuts featured on the project.
With producer Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts fame at the helm, the album is perfectly curated, sequenced, and mixed. Three new studio recordings close the album. The combination of the new songs certainly leaves a desire for a full-length studio album, as these selections piece together cohesively. Shenandoah knows who they are, what works for them, and their simplicity resonates with listeners.
The group’s latest single, “That’s Where I Grew Up,” is what country radio desperately needs. It’s a song that makes you stop to listen in its entirety, hitting you hard as you find a piece of your own life story in those expressive verses. Easily one of the finest efforts in the group’s 30-year tenure.
You can find Shenandoah all over the U.S. this year, embarking on a tour hitting prime festivals and venues. Find a complete list of shows at www.ShenandoahBand.com. Add “Reloaded” to your music collection or listen on Spotify below.