Since his impressive 1989 debut album, Alan Jackson has released one record after another of rock-solid hard country. His latest is no exception. With long-time producer Keith Stegall behind the boards, Jackson's stuck with the traditional fiddle-and-steel sound that's served him well.
The album begins with the irresistible swing of the Tom T. Hall-penned "Little Bitty," and its celebration of the common life is of a piece with Jackson's own modest and yet deeply affecting aesthetic. While the lyrical themes are varied, some of the best songs communicate the old-fashioned hard truths of honky-tonk heartbreak, particularly the poignant ballads "Everything I Love," co-written by Harley Allen and Carson Chamberlain, and Jackson's own "A House With No Curtains." Another highlight is the wry "Must've Had A Ball" (also written by Jackson), which successfully incorporates a Dixieland band into its understated honky-tonk swing.
Although it's become fashionable to indiscriminately dismiss the output of modern Nashville while touting various alternative-country acts as traditional country's true inheritors, it's the megastar Jackson that has perhaps most effectively revitalized the tradition by speaking for and to the working-class folk who gave birth to the music.