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13 Best Alabama Songs that Defined 80s and 90s Country Music

alabama songs
Alabama, the band. Image from their Facebook page.

Alabama has dominated the world of country music for more than 50 years, giving us classic hit song after hit song.

Their mix of bluegrass, country, and even rock and roll inspired the likes of Diamon Rio, Restless Heart, and more.

Here’s our list of the 13 best Alabama songs.  

13 Best Alabama Songs

 

13. “The Closer You Get” (1981)

Although it was the third recording of “The Closer You Get,” Alabama’s version drastically differed from earlier recordings by Exile and singer Don King.

Straying from initial acoustic versions of the song, country music writer Tom Roland described the legendary country band’s performance as featuring “distorted guitars, a more elaborate arrangement, and an altered vocal sound.”

The tactic must have worked because it became a number-one hit for the band, as it perfectly describes the feeling that comes when you fall in love, and you fall in love hard.

 

12. “Feels So Right” (1981)

Lead singer and songwriter Randy Owen served up another No. 1 for the beloved band with “Feels So Right” in 1981.

This mellow love song gives us all the feels as the bold lyrics encapsulate the sensual feeling you get when you’re right up close to the one you love.

If you’re looking for romantic Alabama songs to add to your playlist, “Feels So Right” should definitely make it.

 

11. High Cotton (1989)

As Trace Adkins says in his 2007 hit, “You’re Gonna Miss This.”

The narrator in Alabama’s “High Cotton” realizes that that is true as he reminisces on the good ole days of childhood on a Southern farm, and how it all changed once he became an adult and realized the truth.

The third single from the group’s Southern Star album, this song takes us right back to green grass and “fertile fields” as we remember “walkin’ in high cotton,” too. 

It’s one of the many classic Alabama songs that reflect on the past fondly.

 

10. “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” (1992)

The memorable acapella opening featuring amazing harmonies from our favorite country band is enough to make it one of the best Alabama songs, but we’re just getting started.

“I’m in a Hurry (And I Don’t Know Why)” is a fun up-tempo song that perfectly exemplifies how life seems always to be. 

We’re constantly moving and moving, and yet we don’t even know where we are going or why we’re rushing to get there.

It was already a beloved hit but received new life after former country duo Florida Georgia Line covered the song in 2013 and was even mentioned in the pilot episode of the 2022 biographical drama miniseries The Dropout.

The main character Elizabeth Holmes, whom the series is based on, explicitly names “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” as being her favorite song while in high school.

We can’t blame her. It’s one of our favorites, too.

 

9. “Love in the First Degree” (1981)

“Love in the First Degree” gave listeners a new side from Alabama with its country-pop beat when it was released in 1981 and soon became a cornerstone for their hits going forward in the 1980s and 90s.

This fun twist on being found guilty of a crime, the crime of love, and giving yourself entirely to the mercy of the one you love is a unique viewpoint that became a hit with fans everywhere.

We’d also be guilty of a crime if “Love in the First Degree” didn’t make our list of best Alabama songs.

 

8. “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” (1984)

“Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler),” written by Dave Loggins, spoke to breadwinners everywhere who would do whatever it took to ensure they cared for their families.

In this 12th straight number-one hit for the group, Alabama tells the story of a trucker known as “Daddy,” trying to support his wife and children by driving a semitrailer truck nationwide. 

Before heading out for another long trip through the Midwest, the man says goodbye to his family yet again but reminds them always to sing the song he taught them (the song’s chorus) until he gets back home.

Through the rest of the song, Alabama has us gripping our own steering wheels tight as questions arise about whether “Daddy” is alive after highway patrol finds a semitrailer jackknifed along a snowbank.

Thankfully, it all comes full circle when “Daddy” finally calls and asks, “if she had been singin’ the song.”  

 

7. “Angels Among Us” (1993)

One of the most affecting Alabama songs, “Angels Among Us” is for those who feel lost in the world and need to feel like not all hope is gone.

It might have been a Christmas single initially, but we find it relatable all year.

With lead vocalist Randy Owen’s classic narrative sound, we’re immediately immersed in the story of a kid lost in the woods in the middle of winter, unsure how to get home.

Owen sang the song for the funeral of Dale Earnhart, Sr.

 

6. “Tennessee River” (1980)

Alabama was freshly signed with RCA Records when they released this first single with the label.

“Tennessee River” is heavy with the band’s classic fiddle sound as the narrator heralds growing up close to the Ohio River tributary and how he hopes to return there one day and raise a family of his own.

We can’t help but relate to the realization that there’s nothing like hoping to return to your roots one day.

Bill Malone, a country music historian, has said as part of his essay for Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection that “Tennessee River” was a song that “exhibits a deep love for their state and region … and in the unpretentious sense of place and loyalty to home and family that they display in their personal lives and performances.”

This powerful song kicked off the group’s string of 21 consecutive No. 1 singles from 1980 to 1987.

 

5. “Born Country” (1991)

Once again, Alabama demonstrates the importance of showing pride for where you came from.

“Born Country” is a classic song that hears lead singer Randy Owen reminiscing about everything from “cool mountain mornings” to “cornbread in my momma’s kitchen” to “crickets serenadin’ in the yard.”

It paints the perfect picture of classic country living as the hook line proudly proclaims: “I was born country, and this country’s what I love.”

It’s one of those Alabama songs that’ll always leave you smiling.

Related: The 25 Best Songs About America

 

4. “Dixieland Delight” (1983)

Who doesn’t want a weekend of fun and relaxation with the one you love after a hard work week?

“Dixieland Delight” gives us an anthem for that feeling and has become one of the most iconic singles gifted to us by Alabama.

While one of the most signature country songs of the 1980s, it has continued to make waves in music today, being referenced in several songs, including “Make a Little” by Midland, “Every Little Thing” by Russell Dickerson, and “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes.

It has even become a staple song for the University of Alabama football fans, often played during their home football games.

According to an American Songwriter article, “it just [made] sense… Alabama, the country trio, and Alabama, the college football team, have more than a name in common. They both have pride: in where they came from and in being the best.”

 

3. “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” (1984)

We couldn’t agree more with Alabama in this 1984 hit. “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas,” you definitely “Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band.”

It’s so memorable that a parody was featured in a political campaign for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection in 2018.  

We agree with Billboard’s Kip Kirby that the legendary band “obviously enjoys this high-energy instrumental romp through roots.”

 

2. “Song of the South” (1988)

Although Alabama wasn’t the first to cover this southern rock, country classic, they certainly gave it its most considerable airplay.

“Song of the South” takes us back to the Great Depression and the story of a poor Southern cotton-farm family around the time President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his New Deal and how they eventually went for a better life in the big city.

The music video for the song further brings listeners back to the South in the 1930s as black-and-white images are shown throughout and coincide with each part of the song.

The song earned the group another number-one hit on the Hot Country Songs chart and has been certified platinum 2x by the RIAA.

 

1. “Mountain Music” (1982)

The seamless molding of Southern rock and bluegrass in this 1982 hit is one of the reasons “Mountain Music” is easily considered one of the best Alabama songs ever recorded, which is why it’s secured the top spot on our list.

The song is one of the few times fans of Alabama hear vocals from bassist and backing vocalist Teddy Gentry and lead guitarist, fiddle player, and keyboardist Jeff Cook.

Every time we listen to this classic country song, it makes us nostalgic, as Randy Owen captures his childhood experiences and makes us want to look back on the good ‘ole days, too.

With all the memories it brings up for us, it’s no wonder it took him three years to write.

“Mountain Music” will always be the song we turn to when we’re ready to “Play something with lots of feelin’ ’cause that’s where music has to start.”

It even got a revival when country superstar Brad Paisley included the group singing the song’s chorus in his 2011 single “Old Alabama” before joining him for the rest of the song. That only made us love the classic song even more.

“Mountain Music” is not just one of the best Alabama songs but one of the best songs in country music, making it number one in our hearts forever.

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Written by Donnie Thornberry

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