Music

Story Behind The Song: Alabama's Autobiographical No. 1, 'Mountain Music'

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

"Mountain Music," the sixth of an absurd 21 straight No. 1 hits for Alabama, offers fans a taste of the Southern music and rural experiences from cousins Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry's childhoods on Sand Mountain.

Sonically, "Mountain Music" flavors the group's Southern rock and modern country music blend with hints of bluegrass and gospel. It reminds us of the music of East Alabama that inspired not just the groundbreaking country group Alabama but also such locally-bred family acts as the Louvin Brothers, the Delmore Brothers and the Maddox Brothers & Rose.

Like "Tennessee River" before it, "Mountain Music's" lyrics tell the story of Owen's mountain upbringing.

"It took me three years to write it, and I wanted to get my own experience of growing up in the mountains in the lyrics," Owen wrote in his autobiography, Born Country: How Faith, Family and Music Brought Me Home. "This came together in such very specific lines. Take, for instance, the stanza that begins 'swim across the river, just to prove that I'm a man.' When I was a kid, if you could make it across the Little River and back in one fell swoop, well, that was a big deal. It doesn't look that wide today, but back then it seemed like an Olympian challenge."

Another line lifted from Owen's childhood mentions using regionally prevalent chert rocks (often misheard as "church rocks") as baseballs.

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The song's third verse finds Owen, Cook and Gentry taking turns as lead singer, making it one of the few Alabama songs spotlighting all three as vocalists (Mountain Music's "Gonna Have a Party's" on that short list).

It became the lead single of the 1982 album Mountain Music (RCA Records). The other two singles, "Close Enough to Perfect" and Exile cover "Take Me Down," added to the band's long list of Billboard chart-toppers.

To give you an idea of Alabama's popularity by 1982, "Mountain Music" became a No. 1 country single the same week the group won the ACM's top prize, Entertainer of the Year, for the first of a record five straight times.

Nowadays, "Mountain Music" ranks up there with "Feels So Right," "The Closer You Get," "Love in the First Degree" and other old favorites on most any list of Alabama's greatest hits.

Speaking of the classics, the trio re-recorded a vocal bridge from their 1982 album's title track for Nashville star Brad Paisley's 2011 single "Old Alabama."

Amazon

Mountain Music Track List

1. "Mountain Music"
2. "Close Enough to Perfect"
3. "Words at Twenty Paces"
4. "Changes Comin' On"
5. "Green River"
6. "Take Me Down"
7. "You Turn Me On"
8. "Never Be One"
9. "Lovin' You Is Killin' Me"
10. "Gonna Have a Party"

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Story Behind The Song: Alabama's Autobiographical No. 1, 'Mountain Music'