Alabama’s Best Country Band Have Sweet Home in Minnesota: “It’s a Family Reunion”

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Alabama has recorded over 40 No.1 country singles, sold over 75 million records and won over 200 awards, including Artist of the Decade for the 1980s.

It’s time to add another accolade for the greatest country music group of all time: the first major act to be played in Minnesota during the pandemic.

The Alabama will have outdoor entertainment Friday in Moorhead at the Bluestem Center for the Arts and Saturday in Prior Lake at the Mystic Lake Casino Amphitheater.

“Our last performance was in October 2020 for Camping World / Gander Mountain; it was broadcast live around the world, ”said Alabama bassist / singer Teddy Gentry. “We re-aired an encore on New Years Eve with over 1.2 million viewers. It was the only show we’ve done since August 2019.”

Preparing to hit the road this summer for weekend-only concerts, Alabama has been rehearsing for about two weeks. Almost all of the singers, musicians and team members have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, the group is a little worried.

“To be honest, it’s a little scary not knowing what it’s going to be like at concerts,” singer Randy Owen said. “Most of the cities we play in are opening up to 100% capacity in arenas and amphitheatres. I hope people will be smart and always take precautions. I haven’t met anyone who wants to contract COVID-19 yet. “

Although Alabama does not require spectators to wear masks, Owen advises them to “be careful of ways to avoid catching this devastating virus. We have safety measures in place for our group and our team. as well as for all the venues where we play “.

Health problems

Owen, 71, and Gentry, 69, who are first cousins, answered questions by email last month.

Guitarist / fiddler / singer Jeff Cook, 71, Alabama’s third principal and another (distant) cousin, is not touring with the band due to Parkinson’s disease, affecting his ability to perform guitar and singing. Three musicians have resumed their roles on stage.

“Jeff is a strong person and a fighter,” said Gentry. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he felt good enough to show up out of the blue if possible on the road. Jeff is supporting Randy and I are continuing the concerts in Alabama.”

While Alabama has been away in combat most of the time during the pandemic, the guys weren’t exactly inactive.

“Randy and I have farms, Jeff has a recording studio, and that kept us busy,” Gentry said. “The three of us live in Fort Payne, the same town [in Alabama] we were born and raised. It was good spending time with family and friends when we could. “

Gentry and Owen try to keep in shape so they can shoot three weekends a month. In addition to training, the bassist underwent surgery on both wrists.

“I feel like I’m 25,” Gentry joked. “Okay, maybe 30. Ha.”

A cancer survivor, Owen has a daily routine.

“I wake up early, have coffee, pick up my dog, get in the van and drive around the farm to check everything. That’s when I sing. exercise in my home gym and I walk a mile a day on the farm. “

During their 50th anniversary tour in 2019, the band had to cancel a few concerts because Owen suffered from migraines and dizziness.

“It was difficult,” he recalls. “It had happened about 20 years ago. But I had the best specialist and the dizziness is much less common and the migraines have stopped. What they told me was that the combination of the two is caused by a lot of things combined, but stress is a big factor. I work on it every day. “

Paisley sparked their reunion

Alabama went on a fiery farewell tour in 2003-04, for which some VIP tickets cost $ 1,000. Then, like Kiss, Cher and other regulars who had done farewell tours, Alabama finally hit the road again, in 2011, with no regrets.

“When we parted ways in 2004, we felt we had given everything we could have,” Owen said. “Working 350 days a year for 40 years is exhausting. Then two things happened in 2011.

“Brad Paisley wrote the song ‘Old Alabama’ and asked if we would sing on the song with him. It brought us together again and again in the studio, and it was fun, exciting and fresh.”

The second thing was a series of tornadoes in Alabama that killed over 200 people and destroyed many homes and businesses. This prompted Owen to call his cousins ​​and host two fundraising concerts.

“Coming in front of 15,000 people for these concerts showed all three of us that the audience always wanted to hear our music,” he said, “and at the same time, we were having a great time playing.”

During this hiatus, the lead singer released a solo album (“One on One”), undertook a solo tour, wrote a memoir (“Born Country: My Life in Alabama”) and continued his personal commitment to collecting music. funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. But Owen realized that “it’s a lot more fun playing music with your cousins ​​and hearing that Alabama harmony” than playing solo.

Minnesota State Fair Record

Whether it’s fun at We Fest, the Minnesota State Fair, or an arena, Alabama has long been very popular in this state. The group has performed 19 times in the State Fair grandstand, more than any other act.

“You know the fans in this part of the country and us have something very special. We see it the same way and our music is about everyone from farmers to hard-working blue collar workers,” Owen said. . “Our super Minnesota fans are like family, and when we come to town it’s a family reunion.”

While Alabama music is a melting pot, embracing country, bluegrass, blues, pop, rock, folk, R&B and Western swing, their songs eschew the Nashville tropes of drinking and to cheat.

“I think we love to write and sing about real life, hard working Americans, family, boyfriends and girlfriends,” Gentry said. “I guess no one told us to write songs about cheating and alcohol. I think we did well without them.”

Indeed. “Love in the First Degree”, “Dixieland Delight”, “Mountain Music”, “Tennessee River”, “Love So Right”, “40 Hour Week (for a Livin ‘)”, “Jukebox in My Mind”. So many No. 1 songs that still resonate with everyone, from teenagers to grandparents.

With several generations wanting to see Alabama in concert, Gentry and Owen show no sign of retirement. They even hint at new recordings coming up, maybe this year.

“I really don’t know what I would do if I retired,” Owen said. “Maybe slow down a bit, but I’ll still write songs, record and sing if people still want to come out and hear us.”

Fans can also visit the Alabama Museum in Fort Payne and view the group’s personal awards and memorabilia. But ultimately it comes down to the songs.

“Jeff, Teddy and I want our music to continue to be heard 50 to 100 years from now,” Owen said. “This is our mission and our heritage.”

Alabama

Friday: Bluestem Center for the Arts, Moorhead, Minn., 7 p.m. $ 69.50 – $ 225. etix.com

Saturday: Mystic Lake Casino Amphitheater, Prior Lake, 8 p.m. $ 49 and more. ticketmaster.com


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