Written by Byron Hill and John Schweers
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
March 6, 1992
A by-the-numbers Alabama hit tops the charts.
The Road to No. 1
“Then Again,” the first single from Greatest Hits II went to No. 1 in 1991. RCA released “Born Country” as the second and final single from the hits collection.
The No. 1
This is like an Alabama casserole, mixing together leftovers from “Down Home,” “Song of the South,” and “40 Hour Week” and presenting the reheated dish as something new.
And just like some of the best such casseroles, it produces something flavorful but overly familiar. Randy Owen knows how to deliver a vocal for a pseudo-patriotic southern pride anthem as well as anyone, and the production has enough energy to make it all feel almost new again.
I wouldn’t change the station if it came on the radio, but if I was going to represent this type of Alabama song on any definitive collection of their work, I’d choose those other songs listed above and leave this one off to avoid redundancy.
The Road From No. 1
Alabama followed Greatest Hits II with one of their strongest collections, American Pride. They made a point to freshen up their sound and explore new themes in their work. So of course, the compelling and entertaining lead single, “Take a Little Trip,” became their first since the ambitious “Pass it On Down” to miss the top. This was a band that radio did not reward for their creative risks. Thankfully, the second single brought them back to No. 1, and it’s one of their all-time best. We’ll see it later in 1992.
“Born Country” gets a B.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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I actually get this and “Down Home” mixed up if I’m not focusing, but this is the inferior of the two songs. It’s pleasant enough, but it lacks the charm of “Down Home” for me.
Personally, this has always been one of my favorites of Alabama’s country pride anthems. I enjoy it as much as “Down Home” and “Forty Hour Week,” and I actually like it more than most of their overplayed 80’s upbeat numbers. There’s just something about the melody I’ve always really enjoyed, and I always thought the production on it was pretty neat. I’ve especially always loved the arrangement during the second verse that starts with “Moonlight and you here beside me” where things get temporarily quiet. And when Randy sings “crickets serenading in the dark” they somehow made it sound like crickets chirping in the background, which I always thought was so cool. I just thought they really captured the mood and atmosphere during that part of the song so well. I’ve always really liked the guitar work in this song, as well, and when I first heard it, I remember thinking those last three strums of the acoustic guitar at the end sounded really neat, and to me, it still sounds badass. And finally, I absolutely love that fiddle solo! This is also one of those “I’m country” songs that’s always sounded truly authentic and sincere to me (along with Randy Owen’s performance), unlike most other modern songs of this kind.
Similar to “Then Again,” this is another one of Alabama’s songs from this time period that brings back a lot of great memories for me. The first time I ever heard it was when I recorded it on to the very last tape I ever did before we moved out of our old house. My step dad had found and discovered this old 80’s TDK tape lying around in a hidden spot in the house one night, and of course I was pretty excited to have another tape to record. I remember this song just barely making it near the end on one of the sides. Unfortunately, it was yet another tape that was already in not so good shape, and as much as we tried to fix it, it ended up having to be tossed not too long after we moved into Dad’s house. That tape also included other songs I really like such as “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That” by Dolly Parton, “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait, “Only When I Love” by Holly Dunn, “Baby, I’m Missing You” by Highway 101, “Except For Monday” by Lorrie Morgan, plus others I don’t quite recall at the moment. I actually still think about that tape today, and wish I was able to salvage it somehow, lol. Anyway, “Born Country” would make it on to quite a few other tapes after that. That song also just brings back great memories of the time we lived in Fredericksburg, VA and the other times we spent in that area. Whenever I hear this, I’m back in Fredericksburg in the early 90’s. As a kid, I also kind of always considered it to be one of my theme songs since I loved country music for as long as I can remember. :)
I also really like “Take A Little Trip,” and it’s too bad that one didn’t go number one. I generally really like the production that Josh Leo and Larry Michael Lee did for Alabama during the Greatest Hits 2 singles and the American Pride and Cheap Seats eras.
A casserole in Minnesota is known as a “hotdish.” It is, however, despite the spicier sounding name, still typically a bland and over familiar meal. As Garrison Keillor observed, “Minnesotans like their food mild and extra mild.”
For that reason alone, this song must have been #1 on K-102. It is inoffensive yet oddly satisfying. You may just go back for seconds despite yourself.
All that aside, I still like this country version of Alabama even though I offer “Born Country” as further evidence that the need to establish your country credentials have been with the genre since the beginning.
Until I started reading this feature and the Sirius Top 1000 feature, I had no idea Alabama was so divisive – they just seemed like this very popular, beloved group. I can see where some of the criticism comes from and they seem to go back to same well repeatedly.
That being said, they do have a lot of very enjoyable songs, including this one.