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Album Spotlight: Alan Jackson, ‘The Bluegrass Album’

The Bluegrass Album
EMI Nashville

If you ask him, Alan Jackson will tell you that ‘The Bluegrass Album’ is long overdue, but fans will find the collection to be not too much different than the music he’s known for making of late. The singer’s naturally slow-paced storytelling style is highlighted on a project that provides his team of talented pickers plenty of room to fiddle about. It’s an intimate album, with Jackson even talking directly to his fans at one point.

Jackson wrote eight of the 14 tracks and included covers like Bill Monroe’s ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ to round out the album. Nothing seems out of place. At worst, a few pass by unnoticed until moments like ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Song’ come along. This is the album’s most commercially viable single, although it seems unlikely to be released. The song is heavy with his distinctive brand of hurt.

And she’d sing a little blue ridge mountain song / And he’d just hum along / And they’d dance all night ’til dawn / On a hillside all alone,” he sings during the first chorus. Memories of ‘Small Town Southern Man’ creep into the story, which for his longtime fans isn’t the worst thing in the world.

The size of ‘The Bluegrass Album’ may be overwhelming to some. Fourteen songs is a lot, especially since many stretch past four, five and even six minutes long. On the plus side, there’s plenty of space to enjoy the band’s talents. However, if you’re not a fan of a song like ‘Way Beyond Blue’ you’re stuck for awhile.

‘Blacktop’ and ‘Let’s Get Back to Me and You’ provide some tempo after ‘Long Hard Road’ opens the album with a restrained flurry. Jackson’s easy confidence is what marks this album more than anything else. Fans of the singer’s full catalog will appreciate ‘The Bluegrass Album,’ while those who take a more a la carte approach may find it tiresome.

Tracks to Remember: ‘Long Hard Road,’ ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Song,’ ‘Blue Side of Heaven’

Not Quite a George Jones Tribute: Jackson says the song ‘Blue Side of Heaven’ wasn’t written for the Possum, but he cut it one week before Jones took ill. It’s a case where real life mirrored art, so he sent it to Jones’ wife Nancy and later learned that she played it every day after her husband’s death. “She said it made her feel good,” he tells the Chicago Tribute. “I was proud.”

Did You Know?: In addition to the Bill Monroe cover, Jackson picked a song by the Dilliards (‘There Is a Time’) and one by John Anderson (‘Wild and Blue’). His nephew Adam Wright of the Wrights also co-wrote two songs.

Next: The Best Country Albums of 2013 So Far

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