Photography: HBPR

The iconic country/Southern rock group offers season’s greetings with a new album.

Just in time for holiday season listening and gift-giving: American Christmas, the latest album from the iconic country/Southern rock group Alabama. It’s now available on Amazon, iTunes, and other streaming platforms, and at various retail outlets. We recently talked about the new release with Alabama lead vocalist Randy Owen — who’s been making music with bandmates Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry since 1969 — and here are some highlights from our conversation.

Cowboys & Indians: To begin with the obvious question — why did you fellows decide it was time to do another Christmas album?
Randy Owen: [Laughs.] Well, you know what? I think everybody loves Christmas. And for me, it’s all about the grandkids, and I got to play the stuff for the grandkids, you know? I think even the millennials now are beginning to realize the importance of Christmas and family and being together. And Thanksgiving, too. We have, in my opinion, far too few get-togethers for families now, where everybody can be in a festive mood and look at the world through the same eyes, and just try to be happy, you know?

C&I: What’s really great about American Christmas is the album’s mix of musical styles and genres. You’ve got classics like “Silent Night” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” but you also have a playful new tune called “Ain’t Santa Cool.”
Owen: Our direction with that was a cross between a good old beach tune that you could shag to, and just a different animal altogether — and I think we accomplished that. I was really, really excited about what we got out of that, and, I don’t know, we just wanted to have a happy song about Santa. And then at the end, I did something which was, here again, just about family. I mentioned all my grandkids in the tag, what they wanted for Christmas, and a little word about them, and we faded out towards the end.

And that was probably more important to me than any part of the thing. That is something that will live on, and when I’m long gone and when they’re hopefully my age and having the grandkids of their own — that'll still be there for them to play at that time. So it’s just a happy song. And of course my wife loved it because it’s a shag dance beat and everything, like the old Myrtle Beach stuff.

C&I: Of course, mixing musical styles has always been an Alabama hallmark, right?
Owen: Right from the start. We were very fortunate that we had an energy about the shows and an energy about the music. It was our way, because we’d been influenced by everything. [Laughs.] And when we started out, we had to play for tips, you know? We’d do a Merle Haggard song, then we’d do a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, then we’d do a Doobie Brothers song, because we had to work for tips. So I guess it all filtered into what we put into our music and our writing and stuff.

C&I: While you’re performing in concert, are you ever surprised by the audience reaction when you play some of your own early hits?
Owen: Well, the other night in Oklahoma, we did “Old Flame,” and I told the audience, “I’m not going to tell you what this song is. We're just gonna start it off, and it’s one of the first hits we ever had, and so I will know if you know the song with the first few notes of the piano.” And of course, it was a beautiful thing — they knew the song, and they sang it loud and proud.

C&I: You can’t ask for a better reception than that.
Owen: Amen, brother.