Ask any of the young acts currently on the charts about their favorite music and many will quickly profess their love for ’90s country, and veteran band Shenandoah in particular. But when Shenandoah’s Marty Raybon and Mike McGuire started working on a new album, they weren’t interested in reliving past glory, but offering fans new songs they were even more excited about. The result is Every Road, a 10-song set that features duets with Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Cody Johnson, Lady A, Ashley McBryde, Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Blake Shelton and Zac Brown Band.
“I grew up playing Shenandoah songs, from ‘Sunday in the South’ to ‘Church on Cumberland Road,’” Paisley tells Sounds Like Nashville. “Now, to have a song that I am singing with them, it’s one of those moments you wish your young artist self coulda foreseen.”
Raybon is appreciative of Paisley’s participation and is excited about fans hearing Every Road. “I really believe in my heart and in my spirit that this literally can be the comeback record of all time,”he tells SLN. “There was a comeback record that done a world of good for a friend of mine by the name of John Anderson. On the Seminole Wind album, one tune after the other was absolutely incredible and I feel this album is the same way.”
Anderson’s Seminole Wind released in 1992 and scored hits with “Straight Tequila Night” and “When it Comes to You” that revitalized his career. Rayon and McGuire are hoping to see the same boost from Every Road, releasing Nov. 13 via Foundry Records. The collection is the first album of all-new music from the CMA, ACM and Grammy Award winning Shenandoah since 1994.
“We thought it would be the best thing—if we we’re going to send radio some music and we were going to get guest artists—why don’t we send some brand new fresh material that’s never been recorded before,” Raybon says of the conversations he and McGuire had with manager Cole Johnstone. “So that’s how that came about and it’s been absolutely wonderful.”
Every Road was produced by Nashville legend Buddy Cannon, who produces Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney, and has worked with Reba, George Jones and Merle Haggard. “He is brilliant and man and he surrounds himself with very good and very talented people,” Raybon says. “You’ve got to know who you want on a record as far as a session players and Buddy is the king cat daddy at that. He really is, and Tony Castle, his engineer is an absolute jewel. He did an absolutely fantastic job.”
Raybon says the first artist they reached out to for the project was Brad Paisley. “We were in town doing the Alzheimer’s thing for his wife,” Raybon says of Paisley’s wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley annual Dance Party to End Alz for the Alzheimer’s Foundation. “I was telling him Brad we were thinking about doing a record and I said, ‘Man, I’d love to have you be a part of it,’ and he said, ‘You’re talking about a duet? You want me to do a record with you? I said, ‘Yeah I’d love for you to.’ He said, ‘Man, I’m in! We just need to find a tune.’’’
Paisley joins Shenandoah on the upbeat “Life Would Be Perfect.” “That song literally was tailored made for Brad on this record,” Raybon says of the humorous tune, “and he was the first one to agree to do it.”
The first single from the album is “I’d Take Another One of Those,” a duet with Zac Brown Band. “To tell you the truth, it sounded like something that we would release we would have released in 1989. It’s got that ‘Mama Knows” feel,” Raybon says, referencing Shenandoah’s late’80s hit. “It’s got that story line plus I just love the way that Zac Brown sang ‘Another One of Those.’”
Luke Bryan joins Shenandoah on “Make it Till Summertime,” which was written by Raybon, McGuire and Dallas Davidson. “Out of all the records that we’ve ever had, we’ve actually never had a summertime record,” Raybon says. “We had ‘Church on Cumberland Road,’ ‘Next to You, Next To Me’ and that kind of stuff, but we never released a summertime record and so when we set down to write with Dallas we were thinking about doing a summertime record. Of course it was a cold dreary day and I think somebody made the statement, ‘Man, if we could just make it summertime.’ And I said, ‘I’ve been swinging this hammer in freezing driving rain,’ and Dallas said, ‘Go on!’ And I had a little riff on the guitar. From there we just took off and it didn’t take us long to write it all.”
Due to the pandemic, most of the artists recorded their parts separately. “When we got all the tracks done, we sent Blake’s to him in Oklahoma, sent Dierks’ to his place and same with Brad. We just sent them out. The only two artists that actually came to the studio were Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce,” says Raybon, who raved about Pearce and McBryde’s talent.
He also found he and McBryde had bluegrass roots in common. “We got to really know Ashley McBryde a little better. I was really tickled that she would do it because she’s a grasser from Arkansas,” he says. “Her bunch plays bluegrass too and she even told me, ‘Marty I actually met you on a couple occasions in Arkansas when you were at a bluegrass festival out there,’ and I thought that was cool. So from there we found that she made a red velvet cake in her smoker. I asked her, ‘Did it taste like smoke?’ She said, ‘No it didn’t.’ She said it was absolutely delicious. She was telling me how she cooks meat and this kind of stuff. She really does all this.”
McBryde sings with Shenandoah on the poignant ballad “If Only,” written by Lori McKenna, Phil Barton, Jaron Boyer. “It’s timeless. It’s one of those tunes that honestly ten years from now it will still apply. It’s like ‘I Want to Be Loved Like That,’ ‘Moon Over Georgia’ and ‘Somewhere in the Vicinity Of The Heart,’” Raybon says referencing some of Shenandoah’s award-winning hits. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of what we’ve done in the past is so high on recurrent playlists. We always believed it comes down to a tune. And Ashley sure did treat ‘If Only’ right. What a talent!”
Songs like “I’d Take Another One of Those” and “If Only” have the same warm, nostalgic vibe that has characterized much of Shenandoah’s best work, and Raybon’s distinctive voice has never sounded more compelling. But in discussing the new album, Raybon continually goes back to the strength of the songs.
“A long time ago when I started writing for a publisher named Larry Butler, I was trying my best to learn about writing,” Raybon recalls. “Larry sat me down one day and said, ‘Marty, let me tell you something that’s going to help you. When you write a song, first off the best way to get started is something that you know about. That will help, but this is what I really want you to know, either make people laugh or you make people cry and that’s what the lyric of a song will do. You can get great singers to deliver a song lyric, but what will move the people is not the way they sing it, it is what was said when they sang it.’ And I just never have forgotten that.”
Raybon co-wrote three of the songs on the album. “I’ll Be Your Everything,” the duet with Pearce, is a song he co-wrote with Barry Hutchens and Mark Narmore. He co-wrote the Johnson duet, “High Class Hillbillies” with McGuire, Wade Kirby and Jim Collins. And he and McGuire co-wrote the aforementioned “Make It Til Summertime” with Davidson.
One of the songs Raybon is most excited about is the duet with Lady A, “Every Time I Look At You,” which was written by Dallas Davidson and Lady A’s Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. “When it got to that chorus, it blew us out of the water,” Raybon says. “Charles came in singing the second verse and when they hit that chorus, I thought man, that is absolutely unbelievable. That dog will forevermore hunt. It was killing! Them rascals can sing. Charles Kelly is the most underrated vocalist there is in this business. They all sing good, but you listen to Charles out on his own when he is taking a verse—and probably because I studied this Lady A vocal more than I did any of the rest of them—I got thinking, man that Charles Kelly can sing!”
The only song on the album that isn’t a duet is the closing track “Boots on Broadway,” penned by Austin Merrill. “He actually is a labelmate of ours,” Raybon says. “You listen to it and you get thinking about what goes on down on Broadway [in Nashville] and man, he nailed it. You see these folks that come to town and they go to a western store to buy some boots, got them a cowboy hat and all this other kind of stuff, the boots are not broke in but they’re down on Broadway. That’s what it’s about.”
Raybon is excited for fans to hear Every Road. He’s hoping longtime Shenandoah supporters will love it and that it will bring new fans into the fold as well. “Somebody said, ‘So do you think these tunes are better than anything you’ve ever done?’ I’ll tell you what. I don’t believe that you can measure music like that with chart positions and stuff because music is too emotional,” he says. “It either makes you laugh or makes you cry. It picks you up or lets you down. Either way it’s powerful and the thing about it is, I just believe the writing on this album, the vocal deliveries, the instrumental tracks, I just believe all of it is there. I probably have never felt as strong about an album as I do this one.”