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Randy Owen leaves Alabama behind

Harrah's Casino, Cherokee, N.C., August 31, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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It's not easy fronting a huge selling, award wining band for decades and trying to then do your own thing. But that's where Alabama's lead singer Randy Owen is at now, and if the second of two shows was any indication, Owen may be onto something.

After Alabama's 1-1/2 year farewell tour ended, Owen wrote songs. He also undertook a short tour of Canada and the U.S. to gauge interest in his music and liked what he saw. The results will be on "One On One," which comes out on Election Day on Broken Bow, and he is gaining some traction at radio.

During the 100-minute show before an older audience, Owen relied heavily on Alabama material, which should not have been a surprise given that the crowd would have been barely familiar with any of his new songs.

He started with If You're Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band), which meant he was off to a solid country start. That was mainly due to the fiddle playing of Megan Mullins (a Broken Bow artist in her own right), who was lively all night on her instrument of choice. She added a lot of vigor time and again.

The focal point, though, was on Owen, and he acquitted himself well. He may not have the biggest vocal range going, but he has a lot of timbre in his voice and knows how to put the songs across. A chunk of them mine themes of Southern life, such as High Cotton, Song Of The South and Mountain Music. At least, Owen, who grew up dirt poor in the south, knows of what he sings.

He also sang two songs from "One on One," Like I Never Broke Her Heart, which was more pop sounding than country, and the mid-tempo Let's Pretend We're Strangers.

Owen excelled on the interaction front. One might have thought a musician is going to take it easy playing in a casino with a crowd willing to cheer just about anything. But Owen showed a tremendous amount of personality. A number of fans - almost all female - came up to the stage to thank him, hug him, kiss him. Owen doubtlessly has been through that before, but he seemed genuinely appreciative while also cracking jokes about comments the fans made. One ventured forth and said her favorite gospel song was written by her relative. Owen responded by singing a chunk of the song without his band for awhile, assuming that they did not know it. The bottom line was that this wasn't a scripted paint-by-the -numbers show, which made it all the more enjoyable. He also hit his religious roots with a solid reading of Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Owen should be commended for letting his band play. He did not need to be a stage hog as evidenced by Mullins' presence. A key player was his guitarist, Wade Hayes, who once upon a time had his own career going. He's a meaty player and added a lot to the show.

Randy Owen probably is not going to be blazing new trails in the musical world. He'll be forever known, of course, for his Alabama career, while now trying to make a name for himself. With satisfying efforts like this, he may just have put a little more of a spread between himself and his former band.