We've seen it before; superstar male country artist decides to break out of his shell and try something different. This time, it's Alan Jackson. The result? It's a compelling listen, yet that ton of bricks never quite falls.
Don't label Jackson's teaming with bluegrass superstar Allison Krauss, who replaced Jackson's longtime partner Keith Steagall in the producer's chair, a failure. "Where Do I Go from Here" absolutely shines, as Jackson weaves the lyrics with Stephen Foster's standard "Oh Susanna." The title cut is a gem as well (both written by Robert Lee Castleman), while Herb Pedersen's "Wait a Minute" is a song any performer can relate to.
As individual songs interspersed on most any Jackson album, they'd be a welcome relief from his recent love affair with all things Parrothead. In fact, that's what makes the record so intriguing. It's different.
Still, the album never gains a head of steam. The tempo is static. Unlike a Krauss album, it's not a musical masterpiece. It's tough to gain entry. The songs never completely play to Jackson's or Krauss' strengths, and a musical lineup including Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, jazz drummer Bernard Purdie, Michael McDonald and Riders in the Sky accordionist Joey Miskulin are essentially non-factors. Being acoustic, moody and mellow is one thing; plodding and dull is another.
That said, Jackson took a risk, and even though he doesn't quite succeed, try it again, Alan. More country stars should take such a gamble. If nothing else, it sure beats being a Parrothead.