Legends Return to Celebrate Music

For the last two months, the Alabama Artists Gallery in the RSA Tower has proudly displayed works of art that symbolize the state's dedication to preserving its rich history of music -- everything from homemade cigar-box guitars to quilted tributes to Hank Williams. Now it's the musicians' turn in the spotlight.

As a part of the Celebration of the Year of Alabama Music, the state Tourism Department is bringing songwriters Teddy Gentry, Mac McAnally and Lenny LeBlanc to the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre for the Alabama Songwriters Showcase on July 14. The three musicians, all with strong ties to Alabama and significant exposure on the international music scene, will perform acoustic versions of the songs that made them famous.

Gentry, bassist and co-founder of the Country Hall of Fame band Alabama, wrote 16 of the 42 No. 1 hits Alabama produced over their 30-year career. McAnally and LeBlanc have also cranked out their share of chart toppers. LeBlanc's 1973 single "Falling" is one of Billboard magazine's all-time favorite Top 40 hits. In 1983, LeBlanc became a born-again Christian and has been topping the charts in the gospel and worship category ever since.

McAnally, more often than not, is praised for his lyrics as well as his well-crafted melodies. Often heralded as "the William Faulkner of country music," McAnally has been named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Gentry, McAnally and LeBlanc all share a rich, intertwined history dating back to when they were getting started in the 1970s. Never performing as a trio before, the three musicians have collaborated on songs at different points throughout their music careers. "We have in common a lot more than just being from Alabama," McAnally said.

During the performance, the three songwriters will be onstage together, playing and singing backup for each other as each takes his turn at the mic."It's kind of my favorite type of setting," Gentry said. "You get to hear the writer's version of the song from a creative standpoint. It's really intimate."