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Music / Shenandoah

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A Country Music band founded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama by Marty Raybon (lead vocals), Ralph Ezell (bass guitar), Stan Thorn (keyboards), Jim Seales (lead guitar), and Mike McGuire (drums). Founded as a house band for other Muscle Shoals musicians, they began recording with songwriter-producer Robert Byrne, who got them signed to Columbia Records.

While their first album had very little success, followup The Road Not Taken notched three consecutive #1 hits in "The Church on Cumberland Road", "Sunday in the South", and "Two Dozen Roses". Notably, "Cumberland Road" was the first time that a country band's first #1 single spent more than one week at the top of the Hot Country Songs charts. That album produced six singles in total, a gold certification, and critical acclaim for their blend of traditional country, modern country, and bluegrass not unlike Diamond Rio a few years later.

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Their third Columbia album Extra Mile accounted for their biggest hit to date in "Next to You, Next to Me", along with three more singles and another gold certification. But then trouble struck when several other groups filed lawsuits against Shenandoah for use of the name, eating up the band's resources and causing them to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while also losing their deal with Columbia. RCA Records then picked them up for two albums, which were somewhat less successful, but still accounted for minor hits in "Rock My Baby" and "If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too)". A transfer to Liberty Records in 1994 brought In the Vicinity of the Heart, whose Grammy-winning title track "Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart" featured guest vocals from a then up-and-coming bluegrass singer known as Alison Krauss. Thorn and Ezell left in late 1995, with Rocky Thacker and Stan Munsey replacing them. Raybon also dabbled in a few solo side projects alongside a stopgap album called Now and Then, which included re-recordings of Columbia-era material alongside five new songs.

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Raybon officially left in 1997, effectively disbanding Shenandoah. During this timespan, he had a hit with his brother tim as the Raybon Brothers, with one of two successful renditions of "Butterfly Kisses" that year. All of the remaining members except Raybon reunited in 2000, with new lead singer Brent Lamb, followed quickly by Curtis Wright (who coincidentally wrote "Next to You, Next to Me" and "Rock My Baby"). A flurry of membership changes ensued, with Jimmy Yeary (a popular Nashville songwriter and husband of bluegrass musician Sonya Isaacs) assuming lead vocals until Raybon finally returned in 2014. While the membership has continued to change yet again, Raybon, McGuire, and Stan Munsey remain, alongside Brad Bgenge and Jamie Michael.

The band's material is dominated by Raybon's bluegrass-tinged voice, and usually features lyrics pertaining to the warmth and values of Southern life, alongside polished and tight musicianship.

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Albums

  • Shenandoah (1987)
  • The Road Not Taken (1989)
  • Extra Mile (1990)
  • Long Time Comin' (1992)
  • Under the Kudzu (1993)
  • In the Vicinity of the Heart (1994)
  • Shenandoah Christmas (1996)
  • Shenandoah 2000 (2000)
  • Journeys (2006)
  • Good News Travels Fast (2016)
  • Reloaded (2018)

Tropes present:

  • Ascended Extra: Curtis Wright wrote "Next to You, Next to Me" and "Rock My Baby" years before he joined the band.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Most of their non-Raybon material has been forgotten, to the point that many of the membership lineups not involving Raybon have been lost to the ether.
  • Break-Up Song:
    • "Two Dozen Roses". They've broken up, and he shows up at her door with roses, questioning whether "two dozen roses and an old bottle of wine" would make things better.
    • "Leavin's Been a Long Time Comin'" has it right there in the title.
  • Dead Sparks: Referenced in "Ghost in This House": the narrator says that he is "a ghost in this house" and is "all that's left of two hearts on fire / That once burned out of control". The second verse reveals that "there's another ghost there / She sits down in your chair", indicating that she's feeling the same way too.
  • Humble Goal: "Next to You, Next to Me". The narrator doesn't want anything fancy; he just wants to watch TV, eat barbecue chicken, and drive around in the truck with his girl.
  • Solo Side Project: Marty dabbled in a few just before Shenandoah broke up, including a solo gospel album in 1995.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Jimmy Yeary has an incredibly similar voice to Marty Raybon.
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