Black Music Matters Festival

Alan Jackson

Good Time – 2008 (Arista Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Alan Jackson made a left turn on his last two albums, going for gospel on "Precious Memories" and low key on "Like Red on a Rose." Kudos to Jackson for having the guts not to be tied down to the almighty kaching of the cash register. Nevertheless, this is a most welcome return with an extremely generous collection of 17 songs on his 17th album, but forget about any notion of filler.

"Country Boy" continues Jackson's theme of the Southern life, but unlike other country acts who mine the same field, Jackson can lay claim to being the real deal and not a poseur. He excels on "Never Loved Before" with a lot of help from Martin McBride. Jackson looks back at his youth in the autobiographical "1976."

Of course, there is no doubt that Jackson knows his way around a country song from the themes to the music, which is tried and true traditional country with a huge heaping of twang ("If You Want to Make Me Happy" and "Listen to Your Senses" with a lot of pedal steel). Give credit as well to long-time Keith Stegall, who knows better than to mess with a modern approach or sheen to the backwoods Georgia singer.

A duet with Martina McBride, 'Never Loved Before," works really well. So does the very sad ballad, "Sissy's Song," about dealing with the death of a woman.

The closing "If Jesus Walked the World Today" is a bit weird, however, with Jackson saying Jesus would be a hillbilly.

Jackson may never have sounded better with a uniformly excellent batch of well-written songs. About the only major mistake is the title. "Good Time" is false advertising. "Great Time" would have been the truth.