By Barry Courter
Associate Features Editor
You can hear a rejuvenation of spirit in Randy Owen's voice.
Now a solo artist after nearly 30 years of being the main songwriter and voice of the super-group Alabama, Owen is asked to describe his current career.
"It's starting fresh," he said.
Tonight's Riverbend headliner on the Coca-Cola Stage, Owen will be showcasing some new material, but the majority of the show will be hits from the Alabama catalog, including tunes from "Songs of Inspiration," a collection of gospel and religious songs he recorded last year. Released as an Alabama album, Owen was the driving force behind the recording.
"That was something I've wanted to do for a long, long time," he said.
He said he had as much fun choosing the songs as he did recording them.
"Most of it was me going over to my mother's and going through pages and pages of songs that mother and daddy had."
He chose familiar songs, but tried to do them a little differently, he said. He mentioned "I Am the Man Thomas" as one example of a song that changed from the way he'd heard it growing up.
"My daddy played it like Merle Travis, and then when I went up to Big Stone, West Virginia, to meet up with Ralph Stanley, he had an entirely different version. I'd never heard it before. That was really a shock, but that was one of the wonderful moments of that project."
The excitement in Owen's voice as he describes that recording and his latest solo project is palpable.
"It's all fun," he said. "That ('Inspirations') was a work of love. It about killed me working night and day trying to save a few dollars to get it done. I tried to make it from the heart and make it real."
Owen is doing a somewhat abbreviated tour this summer, but his main focus is writing new songs.
"That writing part of you never stops," he said. "Touring took a lot of time, but I've continued to write and to me it's kind of irrelevant if the songs get recorded or not. I do it for the love of it."
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