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David Woodard of Decatur keeps the band he founded, Natchez Trace, trucking after 25 years.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
David Woodard of Decatur keeps the band he founded, Natchez Trace, trucking after 25 years.

A quarter century of Natchez Trace
25 years isn't anything
for local band, still red hot

HARTSELLE — For a candid moment with a Decatur-based band, change tempo and travel here.

Track off Alabama 36 and trace the sound to the end of Rice Road for a heavy-duty mix of country and rock 'n' roll.

In a former carpenter shop lit by two low-wattage ceiling bulbs shielded by introverted lampshades, the walls spotted with old photos, an oversized contest-winning check, concert posters and newspaper clippings, Sherman Barnes puffs a pipe and plays keyboard effortlessly.

Drummer Orville Cain, his quick-shifting hands melding into a blur, doesn't miss a lick as he takes another drag off a cigarette without removing it from his lips.

This isn't a stale smokers club spiked with the aroma of liquor, although during the 1980s the group won talent competitions sponsored by Seagram's 7 whisky, Wild Turkey bourbon and Marlboro cigarettes.

This is Natchez Trace in rehearsal. The shed, above a basement where the band practiced before being flooded out, is in lead singer Terry Reburn's backyard, where they've fine-tuned notes for the past decade.

They're celebrating 25 years. And they're still red hot. They're priming for another appearance during Alabama Jubilee at Point Mallard. They'll take the stage Sunday at 8 p.m., the last act before the annual fireworks display. And they'll no doubt once again spark the audience to frenzy with "I Wouldn't Trade America for the World."

In their recent rehearsal, warming up with "Cottonfields Back Home" and "Fox on the Run," they switched to the Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes," this time with Jon Patterson taking the vocal lead. While Patterson's delivery is smooth, bass singer David Woodard detects a minor musical flaw.

"Don't cut if off, let it ring, and on the chorus, all sing the pickup notes together," he told the band, which also includes Reburn's younger brother, lead guitarist Wayne Reburn, bass guitarist Mike Boike, and Lee Burch, sound and lighting technician who also can pick.

Good-natured and talented, they listen because they're always looking for that extra edge that makes them even stronger.

Woodard organized the band in 1982 and is the only original member. They stared down "Lyin' Eyes" once more, this time to perfection.

"We were Southern Cross that first year," said Woodard. "We were rehearsing at a guy's place in Somerville, who's no longer with the band. He got a piece of mail about buying a time-share in a place called Natchez Trace, I assume near the Natchez Trace Parkway. By consensus, we changed our name."

The Reburns and Barnes have been with Woodard almost from the beginning, and they do have some tales. As the band finished "Guilty of Love in the First Degree," and prepared to drift into "Dream On," Woodard reminded them of a tale when he said, "I done broke my brand new pick."

"Just take care of the guitar," cautioned Wayne Reburn.

John Denver at Marshall

Woodard smiled, recalling that the late John Denver played the Takamine acoustic in 1985 as he and the band shared a stage during the Marshall Space Flight Center's 25th anniversary celebration.

"We had just finished a set and officials called John up, who was there only as a guest," Woodard said. "But after he made a few remarks, someone in the crowd yelled, 'Play us a song, John!' He picked up my guitar and did 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' to the delight of everyone."

Then there was the Marlboro competition in 1987, when the band won a state talent competition at the Alabama Show Palace in Anniston and a $5,000 cash award.

"As part of winning, we also got to lead off a concert at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center with Randy Travis, The Judds and Alabama," Woodard said.

"Yeah," Wayne Reburn chimed in. "They moved on, and Monday morning we went back to our day jobs."

And there's that song, "I Wouldn't Trade America for the World," that Woodard envisions as their signature song. They included it on a videocassette album in 1987 and re-released it as a single CD in January.

"We don't know who wrote it," Woodard said, "and we've tried hard to find out, going online and everything else. But I remember when we got it. It was 1986. I had been married one week."

Woodard said the band was recording at a studio called Doc's Place in Hendersonville, Tenn., when "this guy walked in, listened awhile and said, 'I'm going home. I'll be back in an hour. I've got something for you.' He returned and handed us the demo. We didn't get his name. People come in and out of studios all the time. We worked all night and didn't listen to it until we got back home. But what a gift. What a song!"

And what if Natchez Trace turns it into a blockbuster hit?

"Then, he'll come out of hiding," Woodard said.

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