Alan Jackson Portrait I really dig Alan Jackson... He and his longtime producer Keith Steagall really hit on the right sound at the right time... Coming in at the crest of the early '90s wave of "neotraditionalism," hat-act honkytonk, Jackson had a great, mellow voice, with a smooth, bouncy production style that was the perfect fit for his easygoing style... And after all these years, he still is putting out records that kick butt and make you smile every time you hear 'em. Real country, yet really commercial, Jackson's got the right formula as far as I'm concerned... So let's take a look at some of his records...


Alan Jackson "Here In The Real World" (BMG, 1990)
(Produced by Keith Stegall & Scott Hendricks)

This is a mighty fine debut, though perhaps not as relaxed and lively as his later work. Interestingly, the singles were generally slower romantic ballads, material that suits Jackson well, although his upbeat songs are fun as well. Mostly it's the super throwback-y nature of the songs that stands out: hard country had found a new hero, a fella who'd stand up for the rollicking style pioneered by George Jones and all them good ole boys in the '60s and '70s. A nice start, though in retrospect maybe not his strongest record.

Alan Jackson "Don't Rock The Jukebox" (BMG, 1992)
(Produced by Scott Hendricks & Keith Stegall)

Another darn fine country record. On the title track, and later on "Just Playin' Possum," Jackson sings the praises of good ole George Jones, and throughout the course of the album, he lives up to his idol's high standards. The non-hit album tracks are all really good as well... definitely a keeper!

Alan Jackson "A Lot About Livin' (And A Little About Love)" (Arista, 1992)
(Produced by Scott Hendricks & Keith Stegall)

Alan Jackson "Honky Tonk Christmas" (Arista, 1993)
Hey, if only all holiday albums cound be this much fun! Sure, there are several schmaltzy tracks, but that just goes with the territory... Good natured romps like "I Only Want You For Christmas" and "Honky Tonk Christmas" more than make up for it... And Jackson's voice is at its peak here, smooth crooning with a big-ole smile that comes out in every note. Plus a song sung with the Chipmunks and a cover of Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December..." What more couldja want? Recommended! (For more Christmas music, see my Hillbilly Holiday section.)

Alan Jackson "Who I Am" (Arista, 1994)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

Alan Jackson "Everything I Love" (Arista, 1996)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

Yet another nice, pleasantly corny country classic. A couple of songs are duds -- "Between The Devil And Me" and "Walk On The Rocks" are both just too darn lethargic, the black widow metaphor on "There Go" is a bit strained -- but on the whole, geez, what's there to complain about? Jackson's about as good as commercial country can get... He may be a bit belabored at times, but he sounds mighty fine. The cover version on "Who's Cheatin' Who" is pretty fun, as is his Leon Redbone-ish "Must've Had A Ball."

Alan Jackson "High Mileage" (Arista, 1998)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

To be honest, this ones a bit snoozy... too slick, too calculated... Other than on "Another Good Reason," Jackson never really cuts loose, and some songs, like "I'll Go On Loving You" are just too darn grandiose and schmaltzy. Others, like "A Woman's Love," are just marginally okay. This disc seems kinda hightone and high-concept, but isn't really all that fun.

Alan Jackson "Under The Influence" (Arista, 1999)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

A pretty solid album, with Jackson paying tribute ot various artists who've "influenced" him over the years (hence the album title...) His cover of Jim Ed Brown's "Pop A Top" is a welcome dip back into the old Country charts; his cover of "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" is even better... In fact, pretty much everything on here is good, solid country. The Hank Jr. tribute is a little snoozy, but all the cover tunes are pretty nice. Plus, hey -- isn't that old Jimmy Buffett lurking around in the background, doing a duet on "Margaritaville"? Why, yes, it is!

Alan Jackson "When Somebody Loves You" (BMG, 2000)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

Pretty formulaic, kinda tame, but still a nice album. I just like the way the guy sings, even when he's doing goofy stuff like "www.Memory" and "It's Alright To Be A Redneck." This is okay, but he's definitely going through the motions.

Alan Jackson "Let It Be Christmas" (Arista, 2002)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

In contrast to his spiffy '93 xmas fest, this disc's a bit stuffy and showbizzy, Vegas-style. Packed with holiday standards ("Silent Night," "Winter Wonderland," etc...) and puffed up with big, cornball production, this is much more mainstream and far less fun than his previous hillbilly holiday offering. If you're into super-commercial Christmas albums, then this is good stuff, but for those of looking for something that goes a little further and offers something new to glug our eggnog to, there's other stuff that's better. (Also see my Hillbilly Holiday section.)

Alan Jackson "Drive" (Arista, 2002)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

Another doozy by this neo-trad godsend. The album's centerpiece is Jackson's September 11th tribute, "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)," which poses the destruction of the World Trade Center in personal terms -- as an historically transcendent, defining event along the lines of the assassinations of President Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. Do you remember where you were when it happened, how it felt, or what you did after you heard? Jackson says the song came to him during a long, sleepless night, and that's exactly what it sounds like. With haunting, probing, soulful vulnerability, Jackson lapses briefly into Christian sloganeering, yet otherwise speaks to the American mind in a way that countless dozens of blustering, chest-puffing patriotic 9/11 songs do not. The rest of the album is equally solid; Jackson still manages to walk the fine line between the shamelessly crafted sentimentality of modern Nashville country, and the throaty-voiced traditionalism that he champions, nailing each song with an emotional richness that his slick, hi-tech hillbilly brethren had left behind years ago. Recommended.

Alan Jackson "What I Do" (Arista, 2004)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

See, what he does is, is play some really, really great, fiddle-and-steel drenched, for-real country music. He's been doing it for years, and he still hasn't slowed down. This is a typical Alan Jackson offering -- a friendly, funny set of hard-country novelty songs and weepers, all sung with a big old, I'm-not-taking-myself-too-seriously grin in his voice. The opening track, "Too Much Of A Good Thing," has a catchy chorus, and the rest of the album pulls you in as well. There are a few too-dopey tunes ("If French Fries Were Fat Free," "The Talkin' Song Repair Blues") that you might not need to hear more than a couple of times, but there are also plenty of heartfelt heartsongs and uptempo honkytonkers that stand right up there with the best of Jackson's classic work. This is a fun record: definitely recommended.

Alan Jackson "Precious Memories" (Sony-BMG/Arista, 2006)
(Produced by Keith Stegall)

When I saw that Alan Jackson had released an all-gospel album, I got a little tingly feeling, and couldn't wait to hear it... Turns out this has more of a "contemporary Christian" feel than I'd expected -- Jackson's robust, good-natured neo-honkytonk sound is subsumed by a slower, softer, more reverential approach, which is appropriate, I suppose, since these tracks are all old hymns that he grew up with. However, the tinkly pianos of the Southern Gospel scene aren't really my bag -- I'm strictly a fiddle-and-pedal steel kinda country fan. Still, Jackson sings with refreshing sincerity and conviction, and this disc deserves the tremendous success it's had on the Christian charts. It doesn't have the same fire to it as Ricky Skaggs' gospel-grass, for example, or any of the winking humor of Jackson's own secular recordings, but if you've been enjoying Randy Travis' sojourns into gospel material, then this album will speak to you as well. Secular country fans probably won't like this one, but gospel listeners will be ecstatic. Worth checking out!

Alan Jackson "Good Time" (Sony-BMG/Arista, 2008)

Alan Jackson "Freight Train" (Sony-BMG/Arista, 2010)

Alan Jackson "Thirty Miles West" (Capitol, 2012)

Alan Jackson "Precious Memories, v.2" (EMI, 2013)
When Jackson's first Precious Memories album came out in 2006, it was kind of a sleeper hit -- decent sales for an all-gospel album, driven largely by the weight of Jackson's own considerable celebrity. Over the years, though, it proved to be a huge success, selling over two million copies and providing Jackson with a major late-career hit. He returns to the well here, with a similar set of Southern Gospel-styled religious songs, more tinkly piano and less twangy guitar, and plenty of soulful vocals. The age in his voice is more noticeable now, but this is the kind of music where age and life experience is actually a plus. If you like the first album, you'll probably like this one as well, although it might be a little too "churchy" for many of his more secular-minded fans.

Alan Jackson "The Bluegrass Album" (Capitol Nashville, 2013)
(Produced by Keith Stegall & Adam Wright)

'90s neotrad honkytonker Alan Jackson goes acoustic with help from bluegrassers like Rob Ickes, Sammy Shelor and Adam Steffey giving bright, 'grassy arrangements to some bluesy, hard-country pop songs, including oldies such as "Let's Get Back To Me And You" and John Anderson's "Wild And Blue." One of Jackson's most appealing qualities has always been his relaxed, laid-back vocal style, which would seem to put him at odds with the drag-racing/hot-licks bluegrass tradition, although to his credit, Jackson doesn't strain to put his himself into a "high lonesome" register, and sticks to his strengths. Besides, there's plenty of mellow bluegrass in the world, and while this record never catches fire, it's quite pleasant to listen to. It would have been nice to hear him tackle more classics from the bluegrass canon -- he closes the record with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," but that's about it for the old stuff -- but I'm cool with country songs done bluegrass style, too. In keeping with his recent success as a religious singer, many of the best tracks here are gospel-themed, notably "Knew All Along" and "Blue Side Of Heaven." So, can we look forward to a Volume Two? Sure, if the Good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise!

Alan Jackson "Angels And Alcohol" (Capitol Nashville, 2015)


Alan Jackson "Greatest Hits" (Arista, 1995)
(Various producers)

Great stuff, though a few hits that are less honky-tonk than others.

Alan Jackson "Greatest Hits, v.2" (BMG, 2003)
A swell 2-CD collection of most of his best songs, as well as about a half dozen new tracks, and his goofy canned duet with Jimmy Buffett, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." This is one fi-i-i-ine best-of package!

Alan Jackson "16 Biggest Hits" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2007)
Mighty fine stuff. It's hard to argue with a nice, hefty dose of prime Alan Jackson hits, although it is a bit curious that this package only covers his work in the 1990s, stopping back in '99, even though the guy's recorded some real doozies since then. I guess this is geared towards older listeners who were listening to Jackson back in the Clinton era, and just want to hear those golden oldies. Well, it's sure fun to listen to, with neotrad Jackson classics like "Don't Rock The Jukebox," "Gone Country" and "Here In The Real World," along with chart-busting cover tunes such as "Summertime Blues," "Who's Cheatin' Who" and "Pop A Top." Personally I love listening to the original old albums -- a lot of great tunes there that never made the charts -- but just hearing the hits is a real treat as well. Ace bunny killer.


Hick Music Index

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