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When It All Goes South (RCA)

Alabama Album Cover

Reinventing Alabama - it kind of sounds like a blockbuster movie starring Randy Owen as a handsome country crooner. Actually, it refers to what will certainly be a hit album, the 23rd released since the group first charted back in 1977.

The tone was set during the song selection process when Randy told a publisher: "Play me the most obscure and different things you've got, we're looking at reinventing ourselves."

That's how they came across the title cut, a Southern-soaked, Dixie-loving ode that somehow avoids the love-it-or-leave-it cliches that demolish so many similarly themed, regionally focused tunes. Instrumentally and production-wise, it effectively kicks off this CD that's described by RCA as: "Sixteen tunes long, a full year in the making and over budget."

But the time and money are reflected in the music. Randy's rich voice caresses the lyrics of "The Woman He Loves" and wraps around the radio-ready ballad "Clear Across America Tonight." Jann Arden joins him for a musical proposal, "Will You Marry Me," that nowadays seems to be a requisite in the repertoire of all country acts; it's like there's competition to see who prods the most wedding vows out of one concert swing. Actually, it's another tune entirely, "I Can't Love You Any Less" that works much better as a paean to true love. There's a slam against cookie-cutter mentality, including the country music business, in "Reinvent The Wheel," while '80s pop star Christopher Cross joins Teddy Gentry for lead vocals on the sweet pledge of "Love Remains."

Kudos to Alabama for a reinvention that keeps the group vibrant, meaningful and - perhaps soon - back on top once again.

-- Gerry Wood

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