Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Alabama, “Down Home”

“Down Home”

Alabama

Written by Rick Bowles and Josh Leo

Billboard

#1 (3 weeks)

April 13 – April 27, 1991

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

April 5 – April 12, 1991

Alabama tops the charts with another celebration of small town southern life.

The Road to No. 1

Alabama had already gone to No. 1 with the two previous singles from Pass it On Down: “Jukebox in My Mind” and “Forever’s as Far as I’ll Go.”  Like RCA had done with its predecessor, Southern Star, a fourth single was pulled from the album.

The No. 1

Talking about how great it is to come from/live in a small southern town closely rivals saccharine love ballads for the largest share of Alabama output.   That puts “Down Home” at an immediate disadvantage, as it’s measured against ground that Alabama has repeatedly and more effectively covered in the past.

“Down Home” is a bit too generic.  It doesn’t have the specificity of “Song of the South” or the heartfelt homesickness of “My Home’s in Alabama.”  It’s also their fourth song in this vein out of their last seven singles, and is arguably of them all.   The “know you by name” line makes its sound like the theme song to a southern Cheers spin-off.

But the track benefits from the fresh production and enthusiastic performance from the band. It’s not their most distinguished hit, but it’s still an enjoyable listen.

The Road From No. 1

For the first time, Alabama pulls five singles from a studio album.  We’ll cover that fifth single later this year.

“Down Home” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. I always loved the line “telling lies and crowning Kings.”

    Despite hitting all the predictable cultural touch points of small town life, there is something charming, confident, and relaxed about the details of this song. Maybe it’s my liking this countrier version of Alabama’s sound that has me going to bat for this song.

    Liking this was part of my de-programming of hating Alabama out of hand and on principle.

    It occupies that awkward space of being superior to mere filler but falling short of any true significance. Just a solid radio single.

    This kind of quality is what made the radio so listenable back in the 90’s.

  2. I was never the biggest of Alabama fans but they released few singles that I actively disliked. As a result I have quite a few albums by this group. I’d give this one a “B+”

    It is simply a terrific sounding record

  3. I disagree on this one. As someone who grew up in a very small town, were talking 500 ppl, this song hits just right. Like Leeann I too love the production.

  4. I think that I was in too salty of a mood when I wrote this one! I went back and gave it another listen and adjusted the grade up a bit. Y’all were right and I was wrong!

  5. No, you were right. Alabama is an inexplicably popular band. As Rolling Stone Album Guide says, “Music for the Country Dentist”. Pure saccharine.

  6. This is the Alabama song that was getting the heaviest airplay during my tape recording days in early ’91, and it ended up making it on to quite a few of them. So naturally, this one also brings back some fond childhood memories for me.

    Alabama’s small town living type of songs have never bothered me, because unlike the countless songs of that kind from countless bros from the past decade, it always sounded much more authentic and sincere coming from Alabama. Rather than going the in your face “us vs. them” route that modern songs of this kind often take, Randy Owen just comes across as someone who just genuinely loves being “Down Home” and simply prefers that way of life. Maybe it’s also that I now long to be in a place where “nobody’s in a rat race” and “where they treat you like family” that I still find the song so appealing.

    Btw, I always thought the ending of this song was pretty cool as well, with the song suddenly fading out into a much more stripped down arrangement down to the banjo, fiddle, and light drumming. It almost reminds me of the kind of music you’d hear as a parade goes by in one of those small towns. I also remember always liking the line “go and see what’s shaking at the Dairy Queen” since that was one of my favorite places to go as a little kid (heck, I still do now).

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