Alabama Charm the Country Jam Crowd With Old Hits and Stories
"Born Country" was a radio hit for Alabama in 1991, but fans young, old and in between seemed to know every word during the legendary group's headlining set at Country Jam on Sunday (June 16).
The trio's festival-closing performance was a more low-key thrill than the previous three headliners' sets (Little Big Town, Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan), but the audience embraced the change of pace on this cool Colorado night. "Can't Keep a Good Man" opened the 90-minute live performance but quickly they transitioned to several of the fiddle-heavy staples any fan of country music knows and knows well. "If You're Gonna Play in Texas," "Tennessee River" and "High Cotton" created a karaoke-like environment with the group's most loyal fans matching Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry note for note.
The stories aren't new, but they're still appreciated. Before "High Cotton," Owen and Gentry reflected on growing up in rural Alabama and before "Born Country," they offered a simple salute to the military. No one is learning anything new about the group (including Jeff Cook, who plays select shows with the band since being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease) during this show or any on their 50th anniversary tour. The covers (including "You Are So Beautiful," for Gentry's great-granddaughter) are hardly contemporary, but fitting in this throwback setting. Owen ambled offstage for a break on one occasion, leaving Gentry to sing his 2012 recording "Turn It Off." Elsewhere the bassist picked up lyrics that slipped Owen's grasp, but the transitions were mostly seamless, with the frontman quickly returning to rouse his audience.
"Song of the South" and "Mountain Music" closed the night, but "Dixieland Delight" may have been the highlight. The No. 1 hit from 1984 came mid-show and included an extended deviation into "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" before the Alabama's original turned to the bridge. From there the band of veterans romanced the night with a volley of pure love songs before picking back up with a few more charming stories of their early careers and late friends, like Mel Tillis.
As long as the group's hits remain relevant, they'll have a place on major stages across America, even if the energy and precision is at times lacking. It's unlikely there's an expiration date on hit songs like "Roll On" and "Lady Down on Love," with several of the weekend's artists paying tribute to them on stage and off.
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