Black Music Matters Festival

Alan Jackson

What I Do – 2004 (Arista)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

Alan Jackson's fans are in danger of becoming blas+ as their hero puts forth another fine album of rootsy mainstream country music. His mastery of the vocal form and easy way with a heartland sensibility are augmented this time out with songs by Shawn Camp and Dan Hill and compelling harmonies from Patty Loveless, Richard Sterban and Shannon and Adam Wright.

The Wright's "If Love Was a River" and Jackson's "Rainy Day in June" are prime examples of their trio chemistry. The former playfully questions a potential lover's commitment, while the latter paints a heartbreaking picture of a desolate post-relationship landscape. Both songs combine the three voices into the sort of breathtaking high-low contrast popularized by The Kendalls.

Producer Keith Stegall arranges piano, steel and mandolin as complementary voices to the lyrics, mixing classic country twang with contemporary touches. The backing Nashville A-listers provide professional, if indistinct, performances with plenty of twangy guitar and fiddle, while Jackson's road band is featured on a live performance of "To Do What I Do."

The plain-spoken everyday-ness of Jackson's work connects to his audience's lives in deeply personal ways - as if each new album is a part of an on-going conversation. It's quite a feat to have such a one-on-one with millions at a time, but Jackson makes it seem as easy as the discourse itself.