‘A Revival’: Shenandoah bringing new single & classic hits to Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre
A weekday morning call with Marty Raybon so closely resembles a chat with, say, an affable neighbor that it’s a jolt to remember he’s actually the lead singer of a band with a Grammy and five Billboard country No. 1s.
Now, the man who helped found and has fronted country band Shenandoah on and off (mostly on) since 1984 prepares to visit Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre on June 23 as part of the band’s Revival tour, a namesake of their current single. It’s their first new music in three years.
The sound of giggling “grand-young’uns” augmented the beginning of said call, and Raybon immediately insisted on being addressed by his first name. He was taking some time with family between dates on the band’s 50-plus-date tour.
“Revival,” he explained, despite the band members’ well-known Christian leanings and some lyrics in the song that seem to reflect them, isn’t a gospel-inspired cut.
“It was about the year of COVID and about the years after — ‘21 and ‘22 — and that’s where everybody was able to come back out and come to the shows,” he said.
During pandemic downtime, Raybon said, Shenandoah gained some new exposure for old hits.
“That’s really when the rebirth of ‘Two Dozen Roses’ came,” he said, referencing the band’s 1989 No. 1 hit. “Everybody was sending us these TikToks of ‘Two Dozen Roses’ where somebody would tell a story … about what was going on with them.”
The band started seeing younger faces at their shows when the world started back up.
”Being able to come with new material and having the ammo that we had with ‘Two Dozen Roses’ and it being such a hit for us before … it just seemed to help,” Raybon said. “One thing that I noticed, especially being down front, was, ‘Man, here’s kids 17, 18 years old, and then we got the 35s, the 40s and the 60s.’”
Seeing the surge in attention for their older material coincide with their new single has been gratifying.
“It’s really very flattering that you had cut the kind of material that you believed in it so when you first did it, and all of a sudden, you have a resurgence of people that still like that same type of song,” Raybon said. “There are about seven or eight of our songs that are like that: ‘(The) Church on Cumberland Road,’ and ‘(The) Moon Over Georgia’ and ‘Darned if I Don’t (Danged if I Do).’”
Indeed, although it’s been three decades since their last No. 1 (“If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too)” — 1993), neither fans nor contemporary artists seem to have cast aside the vibrant, storytelling lyrics that Raybon’s warm tenor ignites. In 2020, the band released “Every Road,” a collaboration album featuring the likes of Carly Pearce, the Zac Brown Band and Ashley McBryde.
Heading to Atlanta
Many of Shenandoah’s songs portray Southern stories. “The Moon Over Georgia,” which the band released in 1991, features Atlanta prominently.
“Being from the rural south, it’s part of the speech,” Raybon said of the shoutout to the city. “Of course, we all live in Alabama. I get over there to (Atlanta) to watch the Braves. I love the Braves.”
The description he gives of the song and its lineage is actually a fitting analogy for the band’s mindset.
“It’s something that told a very picturesque story when Mark Narmore wrote it, and what greater thing would anybody recognize or realize: ‘Look, in spite of anything in the world that I’ve got going on in my life, nothing’s more important to me than the love that I have for this person, and in spite of somebody having everything in the world that anybody would want, I’d rather have love,’” Raybon said. “And that’s really kind of where we’re at. We would rather sing songs about positive stuff and songs that tell a story that winds up with a good ending and doesn’t promote drinking, running around and cheating, and all of that other kind of stuff. We’ve never really cared for those tunes … It wasn’t that we marked that we weren’t going to do those. It’s just that when we would hear one, it just didn’t sound like us. So, we didn’t have a mission to make sure we stayed away from those songs. We just never cut them because they just never appealed to us.”
Raybon talked for a few more minutes about the commitment Shenandoah still brings to shows, and it was clear that nearly four decades since its formation, the fire is still there.
“However long we get up there, we try to get them involved in singing along — whoopin’ and hollerin’ and clapping and having a good time,” he said. “If we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do, then at the end of the evening, those folks were a part of the show instead of just sitting and witnessing one.”
And with that, he was gone — presumably to share an expansive and infectious zest for life with those grand young’uns before hitting the road again.
Country band Shenandoah will play at Buckhead Theatre on June 23. Tickets are available here.