SPRINGFIELD — Shenandoah didn’t branch out in a different direction when it released its first new music in 20 years. The country band remained true to its roots.
“Reloaded,” which debuted in March, mixes three new tunes with nine of Shenandoah’s greatest hits, including “Sunday in the South,” “The Church on Cumberland Road” and “Two Dozen Roses.”
“We wanted to do a new album because we felt that we were not done yet,” said Marty Raybon, Shenandoah’s lead vocalist. “The best way in the world to prove that is to cut new material and try to get it out there. So far, the first single ‘Noise,’ worked really, really well.”
“It got us a top twenty record.”
Fans can hear “Noise” and many other Shenandoah songs for free Saturday during the Springfield Fall Festival. The band will perform in front of City Hall at 8:30 p.m.
Jada Marcus of Rascal Flatts produced “Reloaded." He wondered where Shenandoah was headed musically. There was no doubt, however.
“I think the main thing for us is to remain true to what we know to do,” Raybon said. “It’s what worked for us before.”
Shenandoah formed in 1985, released its first single in September 1987 and topped the country charts in 1989 with “The Church on Cumberland Road,” “Sunday in the South” and “Two Dozen Roses.” Twenty-three more chart hits followed, including No. 1s “Next to You, Next to Me” in 1990 and “If Bubba Can Dance (I Can, Too) in 1994.
Raybon, who took a 17-year break from the group before rejoining it in 2014, said Shenandoah was warned that it wouldn’t get a record deal after two decades of chart inactivity. It signed with BMG, however, and immediately started making an impact on radio.
“We were tickled to death to get a top twenty record,” Raybon said. “I think the latest single we’ve got out right now, ‘That’s Where I Grew Up,’ is really kind of the heart of where we’ve been and literally what we’ve done.”
It only takes hearing a few notes to realize that the new songs are pure Shenandoah.
“To tell you the truth, the only thing we’ve ever known is what we’ve known,” Raybon said. “That’s the tunes that would literally say something to somebody, that would speak to them, that would tell a story. Although the scenarios in somebody’s life might be a little different, it’s relatable stuff.
“You may not have gone through something but you know somebody who did. Those are the kinds of things that minister to people. They really do.”
Raybon believed the group had hits in hand as soon as it heard them.
“What I’m most proud of is that we got our hands on some great tunes and we were smart enough, thank goodness, throughout our ignorance through the years, we were smart enough to cut them,” he said.
Raybon and his band mates evaluate songs the same way fans do.
He explained, “When you hear it and you go, ‘Man, that is great song.’ If it says that to you and it has the ingredients in it that make you feel that way about it, that touch your heart, music is powerful whether it’s up or down in tempo.
“If it says something to you, it has to say something to somebody else. That’s what I look for — what it says to you. If you get those strong inklings of what it truly says, then you know you need to think about cutting it.”
Shenandoah songs stick to familiar themes of falling in love, going to church and close family life.
“Unfortunately, we live in a society that changes drastically everyday,” Raybon said. “It sure is good to go back and reminisce about dinner on the ground after a Sunday service at church and the fellowship that went along with it in songs like ‘Sunday in the South.’
“When that song was pitched to us, we didn’t even have to say we were going to cut it. The look on everybody’s face was like, ‘That’s a no-brainer.”
Buoyed by its newfound success, Shenandoah is set to return to the recording studio early next year. Raybon is appreciative of the opportunity.
“It’s a good time in the lives of Shenandoah,” he said.
Raybon doesn’t take the credit for Shenandoah’s return to prominence.
“It’s all the providence of God,” he said. “That’s going to make the difference in everything that you do. I don’t believe in luck, I don’t believe in happenstance and I don’t believe in the right place at the right time. I literally believe in the providence of God.
“If it’s going to work, it’s going to work and there is nothing that’s going to stop that.”
Raybon said Shenandoah is looking forward to performing in Springfield because band members can relate to the people there.
“We come from little old towns (in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi),” he said.” That’s pretty much the life that we know.”
NOTE: The Springfield Fall Festival will kickoff Friday at 5 p.m. Thomas Claxton & The Myth will perform at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, there will be a car show downtown and a variety of musicians will perform starting at noon. Josh Sanders will take the stage before Shenandoah at 7 p.m.