Randy Walker special for the Roanoke Times
The Texas baritone’s voice was as deep and smooth as ever on the Zoom call.
Clay Walker was asked how he’s coping with multiple sclerosis, which can have devastating effects on your voice. He turned the webcam to show what looked like stained glass.
“Look at it right there,” he said, laughing. ” I go there every day. I am a sinner. I am not a saint. But praying is a big part of my life. I’m not proselytizing anyone, I’m just admitting what has helped me. I wouldn’t be on this call right now if it wasn’t for the good Lord above and a miracle, because the type of MS I was diagnosed with [in 1996]and the amount of lesions on my brainstem, there isn’t a doctor in America that would give me more than two to four years to live.
In fact, religious worshipers might say it’s a miracle that Walker and Tracy Lawrence — who also suffered a big scare early in her career — are still alive today, let alone touring together. The two Texas-born troubadours, megastars of major labels in the 90s, perform Friday at the Berglund Performing Arts Theater.
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Walker was in his early twenties when he was discovered in a bar in the Beaumont, Texas area. He went on to record four platinum albums and six number one singles, including “Live Until I Die”, “Dreaming With My Eyes Open” and “This Woman And This Man”.
His latest release is titled “Texas to Tennessee”.
“It’s been the theme of my life since I entered the music business, going back and forth from Texas to Tennessee,” Walker said from his home in Santa Fe (pronounced “fee”), Tennessee. “My wife and I have a house there and a house here and we go back and forth a lot, but it’s really about the journey between the two of us. This journey is what built our friendship and our marriage.
“The album was produced by Michael Knox [along with Jaron Boyer] and the one thing he wanted to capture in this album, he says, “It’s got to be all about you.” I know you’ve recorded a lot of songs and put your heart and soul into it, but this album has to be 100% every authentic Clay Walker song, what you’ve been through, not just things you know. ”
The cut track and “Cowboy Loves A Woman,” both co-written with Jennifer Hanson and Mark Nesler, are key tracks on the 10-song album.
“I’m a cowboy,” Walker said. “I grew up farming, it’s been in my family for hundreds of years. There is a romance in cowboy life. This song – my father always taught me to treat a woman with great respect. Those two songs you talked about were aimed directly at my wife.
“Cowboy” with its airy mix and steel pedal creates an expansive framework for a message of mature engagement:
With a heart as big as a blue Montana sky/And a faith as deep as a canyon stretches wide…/When he finds the right place to hang his hat, he’s yours forever, just like that/ That’s how a cowboy loves a woman
The style of “Cowboy” is reminiscent of an earlier album cut, “I Can’t Forget Her”.
“I played this song for both songwriters and said, ‘I want to capture that western feel,'” Walker said. “Sometimes you don’t hook it, sometimes you don’t capture it, but we did on this one.”
Like Walker, Tracy Lawrence suffered a life-threatening setback in her twenties that could have ended her career.
Born in northeast Texas and raised in Arkansas, Lawrence was an unknown in 1990 when he arrived in Nashville. In a business where many struggle for decades and few reach the top, Lawrence hit hard really fast.
“It was an amazing time in my life,” he said in a Zoom call from an office in Nashville. “I had a showcase in January  at the Bluebird Cafe, where I met all the executives of Atlantic Records. I cut that first album [‘Sticks and Stones’] in May 1991, so you are only talking about a few months.
Just as the roller coaster was preparing, it nearly crashed. On May 31, 1991, after finishing singing “Sticks and Stones”, Lawrence and a friend were accosted by three men in downtown Nashville. Lawrence returned fire, allowing his friend to escape, but was shot four times.
“To be right there when you see all your dreams come true, it all starts, and to realize that it could be taken away from you very quickly, it was very frustrating and I had a lot of anger. I pushed myself too hard to come back because I knew that if I didn’t, someone else would get my spot and it might be lost for good And so I started shooting before I should have and that pissed me off. caught up.
“When you go through a traumatic experience, I think it’s something you need to talk to someone about. It makes a huge difference.”
Lawrence eventually sought advice to help him deal with his anger.
The title cut was released in the fall of 1991 and went to number one in January 1992, beginning a string of hit singles including eight chart-topping ones.
Lawrence’s latest project is the three-album set “Hindsight 2020”.
“We decided that three different packages with ten songs on each would celebrate the recognition of thirty years in the business,” he said. The first volume, “‘Stairway to Heaven Highway to Hell”, released in April 2021, is a “straight-straight traditional country record” with nine of the 10 self-penned tracks.
The second album has five remakes and five new cuts, including the title track, “Price Of Fame”, featuring Eddie Montgomery.
A thousand miles on a lonely road / Chasing a song on the radio / Takin’ a chance before the chance is lost / Catch a shooting star, try your best to hold on, ’cause / The price of fame is an expensive thing
“You know, I missed a lot with my kids,” he said. “I have two daughters. They both grew up dancing competitively. I’ve done most nationals…but I’ve missed a lot of competitive dance, I’ve missed a lot of time with family .
“But that’s what we do, we shoot. We get a lot of enjoyment from what we do and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my career. I loved every minute. The good, the bad, everything. The heavy workload. It’s what I dreamed of doing since I was little. But the family… they didn’t ask to be here, they didn’t ask for this life. It’s something we’ve had to overcome over the years. »
The third and final volume “Hindsight” was released in January. “I’ll do one or two [new] songs as a whole; I’m not going to beat people with this. Obviously, I still have to do “Time Marches On”, “Paint Me A Birmingham”, “Sticks and Stones”.
Lawrence and Walker have done four shows together in 2021. “When we do ‘Find Out Who Your Friends Are’, it’s pretty special,” Walker said, “because Tracy helped me early in my career, something that I will never forget. We are not best friends, but we are great friends.
Walker said he wanted people to know “it’s me and Tracy on stage together. I never imagined it could work so well. It was magical.