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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Born Country: My Life in Alabama--How Faith, Family, and Music Brought Me Home...Review

About the book:
From the front man, and lead singer/songwriter of Alabama—the biggest country music group of all time—comes an inspiring memoir of faith, family, and living the American dream.

I need to preface this review by saying that I love Alabama. I adore the guys in Alabama. They are my favorite music group, ever.

Randy's book is terrific. It's like a comfortable conversation with a friend. You can hear his voice. He talks about his life and the way he grew up: poor, but loved. Faith and family were the most important things to him. He still lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, on the land his daddy farmed. He's been happily married to his wife for 34 years. He talks of his love of music and how he and Teddy and Jeff came to be the boys in the band. Some anecdotes I'd heard before, but many were new. For instance, Randy never wanted to be the lead singer. He wanted to play lead guitar, but Jeff claimed that role. He talks of his metamorphosis from shy guy to lead singer. They really changed the face of country music and Randy explains how some of that change came about.

Teddy, Jeff and Mark aren't mentioned much in the book, other than when he talks of the group. This is Randy's story of his life and the group's rise to fame from humble beginnings. He's very open that these are his perceptions not theirs and they might remember things differently. They didn't break up, they just knew they wanted to do different things and work on pet projects and stop the breakneck pace of touring. I went to one of their farewell tour concerts in Lake Tahoe.

One thing I really connected with was when Randy spoke of his daddy's sudden death. Randy's daddy was his hero and it took years for him to come to terms with his death and to subsequently deal with the grief. I understand that all too well.

A significant section of the book is devoted to Randy's charity work including fundraising for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. He and the other guys in the band never lost their appreciation for what they'd earned and they never lost sight of where they'd come from. Giving back was very important to them.

I've loved Alabama since I first heard them in 1982, just as they were hitting it big. Like many fans, I'd never been much of a country music person until I heard Alabama. Theirs was the first music concert I ever attended. In 1984, we saw them perform in Stockton, California. Our entire family went to the concert, including my dad. Of all the myriad of different music concerts I've been to in my life (including many Alabama concerts), that one still ranks as the best. The venue was small: only about 3000 people. And the boys came out and signed autographs afterwards. Randy gave me a hug and spoke with us for few minutes. Mark let my little sister touch his head because she wanted to see if his buzz cut was soft or spiky. They were the nicest, kindest guys: polite and friendly. When Randy talks of how their focus was the people and the fans, he's telling the truth. They treated us like we were the most important people.

I would have loved more detail about the other guys, but it was Randy's story, not theirs. Each chapter is prefaced with lyrics to one of their songs and Randy shares how several of their signature songs were written. It's not a stellar book and could use some editing. But, it's honest and entertaining. If you're an Alabama fan, you'll definitely enjoy it and if you're not, it's an entertaining, folksy memoir that will remind you of days gone by: when small towns hadn't gone away and family and faith still mattered to more people.

You can learn more about Randy Owen here.  Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. Great review - I'm glad you enjoyed the book so much.