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John Lamb, Published July 30 2012

An Alabama state of mind: WE Fest headliners shape music, inspire many

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - For the 30th anniversary of WE Fest, promoters are bringing back some oldies, and some goodies. Alabama, the country group that headlined the first year, return for the sixth time to close out the fest on Saturday.

(John Anderson and Sawyer Brown each play their 11th show at Soo Pass Ranch, a festival record.)

Though Alabama singer/guitarist Randy Owen, bassist singer Teddy Gentry and guitarist/singer Jeff Cook, all in their early 60s, retired after their farewell tour ended in 2004 (they played Grand Forks’ Alerus Center in 2003), the group remains the biggest country band. Since 1980 they have landed more than 30 No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts, including “Mountain Music,” “The Closer You Get,” “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler),” “When We Make Love” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).”

“Not many bands can be gone, in today’s music world, for more than a year or two and (not) become yesterday’s news,” says Shawn Reed, program director and afternoon on-air host from 2 to 7 p.m. for Froggy 99.9 FM in Fargo.

“Alabama really made country music what it is today,” Reed says, adding that much of what’s on the radio owes something to the group’s “Mountain Music,” “Roll On” and “Song of the South”.

“To have them in this area, it’s going to be pretty big,” he says.

Reed points to Brad Paisley’s 2011 hit “Old Alabama,” which incorporates the group’s re-recording of “Mountain Music” and references to other songs as a testament to the group’s influence.

Just how appealing Alabama has been is proven throughout the bill as a number of acts named them as an inspiration or shown appreciation by covering the group’s tunes.

Little Big Town

WE Fest is always good for some superstar mash-ups, and Saturday’s bill could see Little Big Town join the headliners for a song or two. The harmony-rich co-ed Little Big Town has been known to perform “My Home’s in Alabama” and Alabama’s cover of “Deep River Woman.”

(Other notable artists to cover “My Home’s in Alabama” include Paisley, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jamey Johnson and Taylor Hicks.)

Jason Aldean

The 35-year-old may be a Georgia native, but one of his favorite songs growing up was the group’s breakthrough hit, “My Home’s in Alabama,” which he recorded with Owen in 2009.

“Those guys were as big as it gets for me,” Aldean told al.com, an Alabama news website. “He’s my idol. I could have retired after that and been happy. He was so cool and laid-back. We met a couple of times before, but to get into the studio and sing with him was a real highlight.”

If you go

WHEN: Wednesday through Saturday

where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

INFO: Tickets are $149.89 for a three-day general admission, music-only pass, $89.93 per day for general admission, music-only passes. Camping permits are $81.76 per person. (800) 493-3378.

Lineup

Wednesday

4 p.m. – Gates open

7 p.m. – Levi Riggs

9 p.m. – Boomtown

11 p.m. Colt Ford

Thursday

2 p.m. - Gates open

2:45 p.m. – Rocket Club

4:15 – Colt Ford

6:15 – John Anderson

8:30 – Luke Bryan

10:45 – Jason Aldean

12:15 – Rocket Club (Barn Stage)

Friday

2 p.m. - Gates open

2:45 p.m. – Hitchville

4:15 – Miss Willie Brown

6:15 – Brantley Gilbert

8:30 – Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

10:45 – Toby Keith

12:15 – Hitchville (Barn Stage)

Saturday

2 p.m. - Gates open

2:45 p.m. – Florida Georgia Line

4:15 – Little Big Town

6:15 – Sawyer Brown

8:30 – Eric Church

10:45 – Alabama

12:15 – Florida Georgia Line (Barn Stage)