‘Man, are you kidding me? I’m gonna get to do a record with Shenandoah?’’’ Marty Raybon recalls the response Brad Paisley gave when the band asked him to be a part of their latest album, Every Road. “Brad was the first one that agreed to do it. He acted like he was absolutely blown away that I even asked.”
The iconic band recently released the collaborative project featuring a strong lineup of hitmaking country acts. Along with Brad, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Ashley McBryde, Dierks Bentley, Lady A, Zac Brown Band, Cody Johnson, and Carly Pearce serve as duet partners for the record. It’s the band’s first collection of all-new material since 1994.
Marty explains, “With the different artists, we were trying to get tunes that lent to what they sounded like and what their records had been in the past to make it gel together. We thought that would make it an easier pitch, too. We’re pitching them something that sounds like something they would do.”
“The title cut, ‘Every Road,’ the first time I heard the demo, I said, ‘Man, that sounds like Dierks Bentley to me,’” Marty allows. “We put that aside and said, ‘Let’s make sure we send this one to Dierks, and if we listen to anymore that sound like Dierks, we’ll give him some choices.’ Thank goodness he picked that one because that was the one that we probably liked the most.”
Marty confesses that he wasn’t always confident that they would attract the star-studded power that aligned with their vision.
“I thought this was gonna be like pulling hair and pulling teeth to get people to do it. Again, we’ve not been in the top ten for a while; they may not want to do this. I found it to be completely opposite,” he admits.
Powerhouse Blake Shelton appears on the track “Then A Girl Walks In.” Rooted in traditional country music, the mega personality acts as a torch carrier for the genre that inspired his musical upbringing.
“For about the last five years, he has always had a Shenandoah tune on ‘The Voice.’” Marty says. “We always knew Blake was a fan, and he’s been a buddy of ours.
The album features noteworthy songwriters who collectively are responsible for some of country music’s biggest hits. Marty and fellow original band member Mike McGuire contributed three co-writes to Every Road.
Marty says, “We all got in this business as songwriters. When you’re off with songwriting friends, you would find an idea, and you’d try to write it and try to accumulate enough to try to put it down. After a while, that just gets in you. There’s that little itch that you always have to continuously scratch. Mike McGuire and I have been writing all through the years, even before we had the opportunity to write for this album.”
To lead their creative direction, a producer who understood their style was pertinent. The band’s goal was to achieve a sound that would fit on today’s country radio and avoid sounding dated. He attests Buddy Cannon and engineer Tony Castle for making it work.
“That’s an absolutely wonderful question that you’re asking because I haven’t got the chance to tell this to anybody or to answer this question. Buddy Cannon has been the kind of producer that was an ‘80s and 90s producer. The first stuff he and Norro Wilson did was on Sammy Kershaw’s ‘Cadillac Style.’ Kenny Chesney records. The Willie Nelson records for the last fifteen years,” Marty says. “Buddy was there during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in a producer’s room. We knew sonically because of what he had been doing lately with Kenny and Willie that we could cut the material on this record like we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
Shenandoah’s rise in the late ‘80s came when a sparked renewal in traditional-leaning country music resulted in an escalation of radio stations and exposure of the genre. It was the newly introduced Soundscan age, and Shenandoah’s albums were constantly hanging out in the upper tiers of the Billboard sales chart. Music lovers grabbed up vinyl, cassettes, and the increasingly popular compact disc; the band would amass several gold records.
Change would play a constant role throughout the group’s career. In the ‘90s, Marty took a seventeen-year leave of absence from the band to focus on other musical endeavors. Now that they’ve reunited, it’s a different landscape with the use of social media and the on-demand digital world that has altered the way fans listen to music. These days, with the click of a button, new generations of fans are revisiting Shenandoah’s music. While you’ll find classics like The Road Not Taken and Extra Mile, two signature albums from the band’s catalog, Long Time Comin’ and Under the Kudzu, fan favorites originally released in 1993 and 1994, respectively, have yet to appear on digital music platforms.
“That mystifies us. One of the biggest records that we’ve ever had was “I Wanna Be Loved Like That,” and you can’t find it. They’ve not put it out. BMG owns those two pieces of music,” Marty explains. “We’ve asked, ‘What’s the deal with us not being able to get ahold of these two pieces of music?’”
He continues, “And what you find out is so many people have changed positions. They’ll say, ‘Look, man, I don’t know, that’s before I got here.’ You know, that type of stuff. At this point, we do not have an answer for that, but I will say this, it does not keep us in the quest of trying to find out about it. We’re doing everything in the world we can. There was even some mention about us buying the masters, especially for Under the Kudzu. “I’ll Go Down Loving You” is on that record. “I Wanna Be Loved Like That.” “Under the Kudzu” itself, the title cut. It’s literally just the biggest mystery that nobody can answer for us.”
The cyclical nature of the music industry has allowed Shenandoah to regain traction in recent years. With the addition of online streaming, prime slots at festivals, and a fantastic live album that captures the spirited essence of their show, the band continues to expand their audience. In fact, they are seeing generations of families attending together.
“We’ve been going through a resurgence. For the last two or three years, everybody’s getting back into the ‘90s country music,” Marty tells Nashline Country. “What’s been very delightful is we found a lot of the old friends that we had in those years that still come out to the shows. That’s absolutely wonderful because country music is fan-driven music. Its people. That’s what it’s all about. As the Lord as my witness, that’s what we’ve always done it for. You go to a show today, and those young people are singing every single word. That is absolutely amazing. To watch that and you think, ‘Did that music truly have that big of an impact?’ I realized that apparently, it did.”
Every Road showcases the vocal prowess and instrumental capabilities of a band that has paved the way for the artists that came after them. Having these all-star guest collaborators on this record proves Shenandoah’s legacy and timeless contributions to country music. But the true admiration is the humble manner that Marty Raybon perceives the accolades and affection that the band has been showered with.
“For years, you look up to country music artists that were in the business. Even going back to Ray Price, Jim Reeves, people that a lot of people today wouldn’t know who they were. You’re looking up to George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash,” he says. “You never dream or believe that anybody would ever feel that way about you. We were trying to make the best records that we could, cut the greatest songs that we could get our hands on whether they were tunes that we had written or somebody else had written for us.”
“I think the harder you work, the luckier you get. Somedays, you’re running 90 miles an hour, and some days you go 15 miles an hour,” Marty reflects. “The secret of it is to try to do everything you can to keep your foot on the gas.”
Every Road by Shenandoah is available from Foundry Records here.