By the Way

That night Alabama played me a song in Biloxi, chatted about Katrina

JEFF CLARK

jclark@sunherald.com

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Randy Owen of Alabama sings "Face to Face" in his dressing room in Biloxi on Sunday.
JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD Randy Owen of Alabama sings "Face to Face" in his dressing room in Biloxi on Sunday.

The mighty Alabama made a triumphant return to the the Coast on Sunday with an energetic show at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. Sunday’s show was a stop on the “Southern Drawl” tour, which is the band’s first album of new material since 2001.

I’ve been a fan of Alabama since I was in elementary school. Sunday night was the first time I saw them live and they exceeded expectations. 

To get into superlatives, Alabama is a great band, and lead vocalist Randy Owen is one of the best singers in country music. This isn’t just my opinion -- there is scientific data to back up this claim. The musicians of Alabama have had 43 number one hit songs, and 21 one of those number ones were consecutive -- you know, back-to-back-to-back-to-back 21 times over.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Owen after the show in his dressing room. I had previously interviewed him and he invited me to “say hello.”

I went backstage with a couple of people I met that work for Bryan Foods, who were longtime, and are once again, sponsors of the band. This made for a topic of conversation with Owen, as West Point, Miss. was once the headquarters of Bryan. He said he had recently been to Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point for a cancer fundraiser.

Owen was very serious when he talked about cancer, as well he should be. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago. Today, he remains free of the cancer.

We talked about the progress on the Coast post-Hurricane Katrina and he even briefly talked about the trappings of fame and how he can’t go out dancing with his longtime wife, Kelly. (Don’t worry, the Owens do enjoy dancing at their home in Fort Payne, Ala.)

And then, it happened.

One of the people I was with asked Owen why the band didn’t play the beautiful ballad “Face to Face” during the show. Owen answered the question by telling his tour manager to get his guitar.

Owen was sitting in an over-stuffed chair and I was on a couch less than a foot away from him when he started fingerpicking the guitar part to the song. Soon, the room was filled with that famous baritone -- one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. Owen’s voice sounds like the equivalent of a worn hardwood floor as it is soothing, warm  and familiar.

I was trying to hold back the tears, which I did until the ride home, when I listened to “Face to Face” in the car as I drove down Highway 90 with a full moon guiding my way.

I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but I will never forget the night Randy Owen shared one of his songs with and me two and other people. He's a very kind, humble man.

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