Alabama energized

RICK OVERALL

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

FOR ALABAMA, a heavy dose of back to basics was the key that unlocked the band's creative door.

That approach including selling their private jet and heading back out on the road on an unmarked tour bus.

It was an exercise that brought Alabama closer together as musicians and songwriters.

The result was their hot new CD, Dancin' On The Boulevard.

The chart-topping success of the first single, Sad Lookin' Moon, is proof they're back on the right track.

"The guys have been more excited about this than anything we've done in a long, long time," explains lead singer Randy Owen during a recent visit to Toronto.

"It really had to do with getting together and writing seriously again.

"Doing the bus thing and all of that took us back to a place and energy that we'd forgotten about but still existed in our souls."

Owen says that, despite the band's elite status, they constantly challenge each other to improve.

"For us, we're continually working at reinventing something that's Alabama, something that stirs up a passion in our careers.

"That's what songwriting does for you, if you get in a groove with it."

The songs on Dancin' On The Boulevard certainly have Owen worked up.

"This music is very exciting, raw, innocent and pure. It's a very Alabama sound that dispenses with overproduction.

"We were able to walk right into the studio and put the songs down without a lot of demo work.

"It's honest music that comes from our roots."

Aside from a string of huge singles, Alabama also seems to have the market cornered on summertime hits -- songs like Cheap Seats, with its baseball theme.

"We're going out next with the title track, because it surely does have a real summer feel to it. There's a taste of both R&B and island feel, a beach type tune that's in a style that's not unnatural to us.

"After all, when we started up, we'd sing other people's tunes for tips in Myrtle Beach, S.C."

It's sometimes hard to believe Alabama's career has stretched over two decades and encompassed 40 No. 1 songs, such as Mountain Music and One More Shot. And they have managed to log 55 million in album sales.

Owen says the success is still hard to comprehend.

"It really seems like only yesterday when we were driving around in a '74 Dodge van, just trying to get club gigs to keep going.

"One week, it would be Top 40 and then a country bar or maybe a birthday party -- anything to survive.

"I'd say the reason we've been able to hang on and continue in a positive fashion is simply because we don't spend time looking back. We'd rather just enjoy the good things that have happened to us as a band."

In reality, Alabama's lengthy run has a lot to do with the band's music connecting with the fans.

"Take a song like Angels Among Us. We've received hundreds of letters from all over the world saying that the song was a blessing.

"Another woman wrote that she and her husband were getting their final divorce papers and she heard our hit Then Again."

She wrote: "I turned to him and said: `Whatever it is, we're going to work things out.'

"Thanks to that song we're still together!"


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