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Born Country: How Faith, Family, and Music Brought Me Home

By Randy Owen with Allen Rucker

Harper One, 275 pages, $25.95 hardcover

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter, November 2008

Find it on Amazon
Born Country: How Faith, Family and Music Brought Me Home By Randy Owen with Allen Rucker

Randy Owen was the lead singer of country music's first supergroup, Alabama, playing an integral role in shaping the genre during the 1980's. As Owen pursues a solo career after nearly three decades with the band, he gives a glimpse into his early years and the things that became important to him during his career with Alabama in his autobiography.

While Owen spins the book in his own folksy manner, it's well-written and directly to the point. The reader gets a real insight into the singer's influences.

Owen successfully divides these different facets of his life into 11 chapters and sprinkles in song lyrics whenever appropriate. The book begins with Owen's humble, rural beginnings in northeast Alabama where his family was involved in agriculture. The Owen family were devout Christians, and church music impacted Owen, 58, early in his life. It's evident throughout the book that Owen had, and still has, a deep appreciation for his upbringing near Fort Payne, Ala., but he knew he'd have to leave the region in order to follow his dream of making it in the music industry.

While many aspiring artists set out for Nashville and try to get a record deal, Alabama - then known as Wildcountry - built its reputation at The Bowery in the vacation town of Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was there that the band was able to experiment with a versatile sound, playing everything from country to blues and R&B. They also picked up their band name there because clubgoers would always want to know when those boys from Alabama were playing. Alabama soon got the attention of the Nashville record industry.

Music wasn't the only important thing that happened to Owen at The Bowery; Owen met his wife, Kelly, there. At the time, she was a teenager attending the concert with friends. They corresponded after she left to go to Germany, where her father was stationed in the military, and exchanged vows not long after her return to the U.S.

The book was interesting in that it showed how Owen developed musically and personally throughout the years. He noted that the band, despite its fame, stayed in the Fort Payne area and lived normal lives when they weren't touring. There were exceptions, like when fans flocked to Owen and his family during a visit to Disney World in the early 1980's or when Owen's daughter, Alison, was playing basketball and an opponent scored and then said "Hey, how was that for some mountain music." Owen's children were heavily involved in athletics, and he said they all dealt with building their own identity apart from being the kids of a famous country singer.

While the more interesting parts of the book dealt with Owen's early life, he touched on his friendship with the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, saying that he got to know the man behind "The Intimidator" reputation, and they recognized a common theme in coming up from simple, rural beginnings to widespread fame, especially in the southeast.

Owen talked about the excitement of Alabama's farewell tour, but it was more interesting to read about his activities away from music, such as raising money through the band's long-time festival, June Jam, promoting agricultural education in Alabama and playing a major role in fundraising for St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis - which cares for children with cancer.

Owen's had an interesting life so far, and this could only be the beginning chapter, depending on how he fares in his solo career.