||Randy Albright has been called the “Johnny Cash of Catholic Music.” (Contributed photo)
MIDDLETON -- The Madison Catholic Woman’s Club and the Madison Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invite all women of the diocese to participate in a day of prayer and song at St. Bernard Church in Middleton on Tuesday, Oct. 22, for the benefit of the Women’s Care Center-Madison.
The extraordinary songwriter and singer Randy Albright from Nashville, Tenn., will be performing his “Musical Celebration of Mary,” which has been called one of the most inspirational and spiritually moving Catholic music performances ever to tour the United States.
The timing of this awesome event coincides beautifully with October being the Respect Life month in the Catholic Church throughout the United States and also during the 40 days for Life Vigil that is also going on in Madison from September 25 to November 3.
The day will begin at 8:45 a.m. with coffee and rolls. Fr. David Johannes from St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee, and St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Westport, will tell the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mass will be concelebrated at 11:30 a.m. preceded by the Rosary. Luncheon is at 12:30 p.m. followed by the one-hour performance of song and dialogue by Albright.
Randy Albright: ‘Johnny Cash of Catholic Music’
The National Catholic Register featured Randy Albright -- another “Man in Black” -- as “the Johnny Cash of Catholic Music.” He has written songs for country music legends such as Vince Gill, Alabama, Diamond Rio, Alan Jackson, and Faith Hill.
More importantly, however, Albright’s musical talents and early life circumstances lead him to a different calling. After having recorded more than a hundred songs in his career, he says, “I was divinely inspired to compose a new melodic version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.”
Marian Day of Renewal
The Marian Day of Renewal featuring Randy Albright will be held Tuesday, Oct. 22, at St. Bernard Church in Middleton. The cost of the event is $20. Make checks out to MCWC. Reservations are due by Monday, Oct. 14, to Judy Riddle, MCWC, 4282 Severson Dr. Madison, WI 53718, or Carol Brennan, MDCCW, Wi533 Gladys Court, Berlin, WI 54923. The facility is barrier free. For more information contact Judy Riddle at 608-221-1740.
In a recent phone interview, this humble, down-to-earth man spoke with such reverence and love for Mary that his performance here is sure to be an experience to cherish.
He heard the messages of Divine Mercy, but “one day I was just driving down the road and started singing the words of the chaplet. I had a recorder with me -- like every good writer or songwriter does,” he chuckled, “and so I started recording the song. It was definitely a divine inspiration. The experience evidently came from the Holy Spirit.”
Although his faith had been rooted in Catholicism, his music was about to take a spiritual conversion. He recorded the first country version of the Chaplet in 2005 and his music took on the message and ministry of Mary exclusively.
Recording from the heart
In the phone interview, Albright answered the question “Are you a cradle-Catholic?” with an exuberant, “I actually call myself a pre-cradle Catholic.” He told a beautiful story that fits so perfectly with the theme and benefit of the upcoming event.
Albright was adopted, but before his birth mother gave him up, she had a stipulation in the adoption papers that the adoptive parents must be Catholic.
Adopted into Catholic home
After he was born, however, his mother couldn’t make herself give him up, so she tried to keep him. Soon afterwards, she and Albright came down with a terrible case of Asiatic flu. His mother decided after that it would be best to place him with parents who were better able to care for him.
Albright was adopted into a wonderful Catholic home with people of Polish descent. His adopted mother played the accordion and was part of a very musical family, he said. She bought him a guitar for his eighth birthday. She also told Albright she had something else for him when he was ready.
About the time of Albright’s high school graduation, he reminded his mother that she had something for him, he said. “She took out a 1966 newspaper article and said although they had limited information about his birth mother, they did have two last names from the birth certificate.”
This article featured a picture of a woman singer with one of those names, he said. Albright’s adoptive parents believed it was his birth mother.
Nurturing his music talents
Albright did eventually reconnect with his birth mother and she was indeed the woman in the article. Music was in the blood and nurtured by his adoptive family.
Albright would later write and record a song “Let Me Live” from the perspective of a child in the womb. You can find the song and video that goes with it on Albright’s website: www.Ikahnrecords.com (Be sure to check out his website for more about Albright and to order his albums.)
Albright started playing the accordion and guitar with his adoptive mother for disabled veterans and at nursing homes when he was nine or 10 years old. He grew up writing songs and singing in school and church.
Being taught at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Bronson, Mich., by the Felician Sisters and the Crosier Fathers, he developed a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Nashville and Grand Ole Opry
Albright explained that he was brought up in a hard-working family and he worked at a grocery store while in high school. By the age of 19 he was managing workers much older than he was.
It was there he became friends with a man who was impressed with his musical talents and wanted Albright to give a tape of his music to a neighbor who worked at Acuff/Rose Publishing Company.
After resisting for awhile, Albright finally gave in. The company liked the tape and “at the age of 20 I packed up and moved to Nashville. Within a year I was working in back at the Opry USA Show. Shortly after that I started performing Hank Williams songs, but kept writing my own music,” he said.
One of the early songs he had written for the group Alabama became their first million dollar seller. He had also written a song that he hoped Emmy Lou Harris would sing. “She was a role model of mine, but she didn’t want to sing the song because she felt it needed a male voice.”
The song “Oh Carolina” became a hit for Vince Gill, his second single on RCA. Albright went on to write many more songs for Gill, including “A River Like You,” another smash hit.
Just last month Alan Jackson released a song that Albright had written for him 20 years ago. Jackson, according to Albright, “had carried that song around in his pocket, and not long ago I got an e-mail from him asking if he could record it. The song was released by Jackson on September 24, which happened to be the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy. The song is ‘Way Beyond the Blue’,” Albright said.
Divine intervention and a new start
One Saturday evening when he was attending Mass, something happened. “I was listening to the girl singing and playing piano -- and she could barely play. I was thinking to myself that here I was and I could help. I ended up playing and singing at Masses after that.”
Shortly after that the inspiration came for a country version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and since 2005 it has been carried by RadioMaria.us., he added.
Albright now has many albums devoted to Mary, in addition to his “A Musical Celebration of Mary” -- which he self-penned and self-performed -- that has captured the hearts of listeners around the world. This album inspired him to write his one-hour show, “A Musical Celebration of Mary,” that is currently touring Catholic parishes around the United States.
He travels with his wife Laurie, who also sings with him. They were married in 2003 and have four sons. “Laurie wasn’t Catholic and wasn’t a singer when we first met. Now she is Catholic, sings, and is consecrated to Mary,” Albright said.
Madison Catholic Woman’s Club member Rita Endres of Waunakee was blessed to hear Albright on a retreat in Chambers Island last fall and encouraged him to come to Madison for this special event.
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear this Nashville artist portray the life of Mary in grace-filled song and dialog.