While it may always be overshadowed by football in the state, Alabama sure has a rich history in country music.
From the likes of Hank Williams, to modern legends like Jason Isbell and Jamey Johnson, to up-and-comers like Riley Green and Muscadine Bloodline, tons of music talent has come out of Alabama over the years.
Furthermore, music studios in Muscle Shoals made the town the recording capital of the world in the 1960s and 1970s, and the area’s impact on music is still apparent today.
The musicians that are from Alabama represent the state well, and those outside of the state understand its significance. Adding to Alabama’s presence in country music, here are 10 of the best songs named for cities in Alabama.
10. “Birmingham Jail” – Chatham County Line – IV (2008)
9. “Postmarked, Birmingham” – BlackHawk – Love & Gravity (1997)
“I’d have bet on California, ’cause her sister’s in Bel Air Or I could see Seattle, with her mom and dad up there She never mentioned Alabama, so I don’t understand Postmarked Birmingham”
8. “Montgomery in the Rain” – Hank Williams Jr. – The New South (1977)
“You don’t have to hide your baby, you don’t have to go get no gun Oh how can you blame me for things I ain’t never done I used to live here and now I’ve come back again Just to stop for awhile and think how things might of been I had to come back to remember the joy And the pain and if it’s alright with you before I get back on the train I just want to see Montgomery in the rain”
7. “Montgomery” – Muscadine Bloodline (2019)
A couple of Mobile, Alabama natives Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster grew up near each other but never met until they were both playing in the local music scene. Now they’re one of the best duos in country music and this song is proof.
“Maybe if I didn’t know you moved on, it wouldn’t be so rough Wouldn’t have this vision of you sitting right here in my truck Can’t fix our history, can’t change what it was If I could then I would make you fall back in love”
6. “The Birmingham Turnaround” – Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes (1988)
“Birmingham would have to wait for a little later date And I said I’d see you later New Orleans ‘Cause I knew my rambling ways had seen their better days And suddenly I had a change in dreams
Caught a plane from Birmingham Back in your arms is where I am At times we laugh and talk about The day I did the Birmingham turnaround”
5. “Mobile Bay” – Johnny Cash – The Baron (1981)
“We were cold and burning anything that was dry enough to burn A shaking man said he had left his family back in Boston And I knew I’d hear a whole lot more, before it came my turn A bearded man in his army coat said the answer boys is Jesus The one called Joe, said all I know is isn’t January hell One guy said let’s have a drink to Flagstaff Arizona And I thought I might freeze to death before I’d get to tell
About Mobile Bay, magnolia blossoms, cool summer nights Warm rolling seas, and all my dreams, somewhere I’d lost them Mobile Bay, magnolia leaves, sweet Rosalee”
4. “Angel from Montgomery” – John Prine – John Prine (1971)
One of the greatest songwriters of all time, Prine’s lyrical genius is obvious in this song written from a woman’s perspective.
“Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery Make me a poster of an old rodeo Just give me one thing that I can hold on to To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
There’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear ’em, they’re buzzing And I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today How the hell can a person go to work in the morning And come home in the evening and have nothing to say?”
3. “Birmingham” – Zach Bryan – Quiet Heavy Dreams (2020)
Based on a story Bryan allegedly heard from one of his grandfather’s friends when he was younger, this murder ballad is a modern classic.
“That night out there in Birmingham that boy he tried to rob me I did not want to but I had to show that boy the real me That night I often wonder what my tombstone would say Would it mention any of my good or just evil in my days? The dust has not settled from those boys who busted in I am not a bad man but there’s bullets in my skin”
2. “Boulder to Birmingham” – Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975)
“Well you really got me this time And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive I have come to listen for the sound Of the trucks as they move down Out on ninety five And pretend that it’s the ocean Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean Baby do you know what I mean”
1. “Midnight in Montgomery” – Alan Jackson – Don’t Rock the Jukebox (1991)
Doesn’t get much better than Alan Jackson paying homage to one of the forefathers of country music. This song is about a touring musician encountering the ghost of Alabama legend Hank Williams.
“’Cause it’s midnight in Montgomery, just hear that whip-poor-will See the stars light up the purple sky, feel that lonesome chill ‘Cause when the wind is right you’ll hear his songs, smell whiskey in the air Midnight in Montgomery, he’s always singing there”