For more than 25 years Alan Jackson’s music has provided a soundtrack for American life. Whether someone is plowing a Kansas field or toiling away in a factory in an urban metropolis, Jackson’s songs have chronicled the hopes, dreams and values of everyday people. Hits like “Remember When,” “Drive” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” have become an enduring part of America’s musical landscape, but Jackson’s restless creative spirit won’t let him sit on his considerable laurels.
With Angels and Alcohol, Jackson’s first studio album of new music in three years, he continues to deliver the kind of insightful and thoroughly engaging songs that have long been the foundation of his successful career. From the pensive title track to the up-tempo first single, “Jim and Jack and Hank,” Jackson takes the listener on an emotional journey. “I’ve always got my eyes and ears open for ideas, melodies and things,” Jackson says. “I keep a running list of good hooks and titles, and if I have a melody that I come up with now, I just put it on my phone so I won’t forget. If I get inspired by something, I’ll sit down and write a whole song right away, but most of the time I just collect ideas and hooks and melodies and eventually I’ll get around to writing it.”
Jackson’s observational skills have served him well throughout his 25-year career. The Newnan, Georgia native has sold nearly 60 million albums and released more than 60 singles with 50 landing in the top ten and 35 soaring all the way to No. 1. A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, Jackson has won more than 150 industry awards, including 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, two Grammys and ASCAP’s Founders and Golden Note Awards. He also received the first-ever ASCAP Heritage Award in 2014 having earned the title of most performed country music songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years.
Among all the accolades he’s earned, Jackson admits that being recognized for his songwriting means the most to him. “If I had to pick something, I’d rather them remember me for songwriting,” he says of his legacy. “I’ve always been proud of that and I feel that’s the most important part of the business. I’d like to think that my songwriting made a difference. I’ve had so many people tell me that my songs are the reason they moved to Nashville. I’ve heard that so many times and it makes me feel good that I’ve inspired somebody.”
Angels and Alcohol comes 25 years after the release of Jackson’s landmark debut album Here in the Real World. Since then he’s released 22 albums, including two Christmas collections, two gospel albums, three Greatest Hits packages and his highly acclaimed The Bluegrass Album, which included eight original songs. His commitment to the craft of songwriting continues as Jackson penned seven of the 10 songs on Angels and Alcohol. The lead single, “Jim and Jack and Hank” is an up-tempo break-up song with a clever lyric and infectious melody. “The girl leaves guy and this time he’s not going to be heartbroken. He says, ‘Just go out the door and take all your junk and everything. I don’t need anything. I got all I need. I got my friends Jim, Jack and Hank— Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Hank Williams, Sr. or Jr. or both. My mama won’t like this song I know,” Jackson admits with a grin, “but it’s a fun way of looking at that guy losing his girl and acting like he didn’t care.”
A track sure to win Mama Jackson’s approval is the opening cut “You Can Always Come Home,” penned for his three daughters. “Ali, my middle daughter, moved out to California last fall and that’s when I wrote it. It reminded me of when I moved to Nashville and didn’t know anybody. I’d call my folks at home. My mama and daddy were supportive even though they were worried about me coming up here. My daddy said, ‘You can always come home. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.’ I’ve always remembered that so it reminded me of Ali and that’s where that one came from.”
“You Never Know” is a buoyant country number that serves as a reminder of life’s unexpected gifts. Jackson admits the first verse draws on his memory of meeting Denise and falling in love. “That verse about the stringy blonde hair and 20-inch waist, I was thinking about her when I first met her,” he says. “‘You Never Know’ is kind of a rockabilly thing. I always liked that early George Jones rockabilly, those Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis kind of melodies. That’s what this one reminded me of. It’s a fun song about how you never know when love is going to grab a hold of you.”
“Angels and Alcohol” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction and the impact it can have on relationships. “I’ve had that hook laying around for a while,” he shares. “I don’t know where I got ‘Angels and Alcohol.’ At first, I thought it sounded like an album title more than anything and I just had it laying there. One day, I sat down and tried to write it and it just came out. It’s about alcohol abuse and how it effects your whole life and relationships and dealing with your own problems. It’s just hard to do anything when that has an affect on you.”
Angels and Alcohol was produced by Keith Stegall, who has helmed every one of Jackson’s albums with the exception of 2006’s Like Red on a Rose, which was produced by Alison Krauss. Together they have crafted a stunning collection teaming with stone country toe-tappers and heart-tugging ballads. Adam and Shannon Wright contribute “The One You’re Waiting On,” a barroom treatise on a woman looking for love. Troy Jones and Greg Becker penned “When God Paints,” a beautiful ballad that gets a tender reading from Jackson’s rich, evocative voice. “Flaws” is a lively number about imperfections. “That song is a kind of a silly little swing thing,” Jackson shares. “It’s fun.”
In a day and age when country music has become an interesting cornucopia of styles and influences, Jackson’s brilliance lies in his consistency. Fans have always counted on him to deliver the kind of meat and potatoes country music that has enriched their lives and soothed their hard-working souls. “[During] the whole 25 years, it was about keeping it country and I’ve tried to do that,” Jackson says. “I just wanted to make this album and for people to say, ‘That’s what he’s done. He’s kept it country.’ You could probably play this next to my first album and there wouldn’t be a lot of difference in song content or production. My voice was a lot higher back then. My voice has gotten deeper with age, but other than that there probably isn’t much difference, and I’m proud of that.”
Over the course of 25 years, Alan Jackson has kept it country and along the way he’s earned the respect of his peers across all genres. He is in the elite company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon among songwriters who’ve written more than 20 songs that have hit No. 1. The soft-spoken Georgian is also one of the best-selling artists since the inception of SoundScan, ranking among Eminem and Metallica.
“My wife, Denise, and I still sit down and look back and think: ‘What in the world? How did all this happen?” Jackson says humbly marveling at his success. “From where we came from to come up here and have all this happen, she thinks this is divinely orchestrated. I’ve seen people have one or two hits and disappear, and if they are lucky, their career would last five years and that’s what I was expecting. Now we are here 25 years later and I’m still able to go out and play if I want to and sell a few records. It’s amazing.”
Amazing! Yes. And well earned through a lot of long miles on the road and many quiet nights alone with a pen and a guitar. Alan Jackson personifies the working man’s musician, a hard-working troubadour from humble roots who has risen to the top of his field. Though he might describe himself as “a singer of simple songs,” Alan Jackson is so much more. He’s a gentle, intelligent soul who documents the world around him and shares those observations through country music. The first 25 years have indeed been amazing, and if Angels and Alcohol is any indication, there’s so much more to come.
Little Big Town will perform on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday (March 1st), followed by The Talk on March 14th.
Luke Bryan will perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Thursday (March 2nd).
Eric Church and Sam Hunt, along with Jason Aldean, will headline the 4th Annual Route 91 Harvest Festival September 29th – October 1st at Nevada’s Las Vegas Village. Tickets go on sale Friday (March 3rd).
Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Chris Stapleton and Alan Jackson are scheduled to perform during this year’s Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The three-day concert event will take place April 7th – 9th and will also feature such artists as Brett Eldredge, Kenny Chesney, Maren Morris, Dustin Lynch, Brett Young, Chris Lane and many more.
Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special someone. The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century.
Over 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. (This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.) (Source: Hallmark research)
2.2 million marriages take place in the United States annually, which breaks down to more than 6,000 a day.
Tuesday is Valentine’s Day (February 14th), and we’ve got some thoughts and feelings more about love, romance and marriage from several of your favorite country artists. Some are new and some have become our favorites over the years. Which country stars are romantic? Which ones aren’t? Which ones have a good reason to celebrate the holiday that’s all about love?
AJ (Valentine’s Day) OC: …continue to. :24
“We got a lot of history together now, and we’re happier than we’ve ever been. So, she’s still beautiful, and she’s always inspired songs. I mean, one of my early hits was a song called ‘I’d Love You All Over Again,’ I wrote for her for our 10th anniversary. I mean, there’s been a zillion songs that have pieces of our good days and bad days inspired, and they continue to.”
Billy Currington (Valentine’s Day memory) OC: …took off running. :21
“Yeah, I remember my first girlfriend. I was in first or second grade, but anyway, I remember it was Valentine’s Day and your mom going, ‘You’ve got to give your girlfriend something, and you’ve got to go give it to her.’ I’ll never forget — we got her a box of chocolates or whatever it was. I remember going down to her classroom and knocking on the door, getting her to come to the door. I remember handing it to her, and then I took off running.”
Canaan Smith (Valentine’s Day) OC: …get lucky. :25
“I bet I’m just like 99.9% of the rest of the men in the world who could really care less about that holiday. I want my wife to feel special, so I’m gonna take part in it. I’m gonna do my part to make her feel special and loved, but is it necessary? Shouldn’t we do that every day? I mean, it kinda is just another way to get a bunch of money out of us, but oh well. We’ll go see a movie or something. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
Dierks Bentley (Valentine’s Day realities) OC: …that’s awesome. :53
“I’m gonna be the voice of truth and honesty for Valentine’s Day for a lot of the guys out there listening and for some of the girls listening, as well too. You may like this; you may not, but Valentine’s Day is a really difficult day for guys. When you’re single, it’s stressful for like a month leading up to it, and inevitably, you do something wrong. You don’t get the wrong thing or you say too much, and she’s wanting to get engaged faster than you want to get engaged. I don’t know. It’s just a very stressful holiday. I’m at a time in my life where I got a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a zero-year-old, and we’re just really trying to survive on a day-to-day basis. I mean, we get about four hours of sleep, and we’re literally in survival mode. So, I think there should be a hall pass for guys in that phase of their life. It doesn’t take much at this stage for us to get excited. A dinner alone is heaven. I mean, if we can just have a dinner and a glass of wine, that’s awesome.”
Dierks Bentley (Valentine’s peak) OC: …48-hour party, you know? [chuckles]
“I kind of peaked when I dropped the engagement ring on her and surprised her with that and took her to Mexico and eloped. I spiked early. I peaked early. Now we’re in our eighth year. I need to find something special to do, but we keep having kids. It’s like, we can’t be away from them. We’re gonna find a week when they’re all in school and everything is set and we’ve got somebody. We have no family in town. We just have some folks that we really count on. When we get everyone locked in place, we’re gonna go somewhere for like two days and get away and have like a two-day, 48-hour party, you know?” [chuckles]
Eric Church (Valentine’s) OC: …love song is. :18 “True love to me is when you love a person in spite of all their fallibilities, and for me, I have a lot of ‘em. I’m definitely at times hard to love, and that’s what’s great about Katherine and the way she loves me. She loves me in spite of those things and really for those things.”
Josh Turner (Romantic) OC: …long time to come. :26
“If you ask my wife Jennifer if I was a romantic, she would definitely say, ‘Yes,’ but she knows that sometimes my hectic schedule and our busy lifestyles can kind of interfere with the romantic side of things. But we do try to make efforts towards being together and having adult conversations and taking time away from the children and doing things that husbands and wives do, so we’ll definitely try to continue that for a long time to come.”
Lauren Alaina (Valentine’s Day) OC: …pretty embarrassing. 1:51
“I think my first Valentine’s Day with Alex, I was trying to be super cute and cook him a Valentine’s Day dinner. I was 18 at the time, and I’d just moved into this brand new apartment in Chattanooga. I was trying to get used to not living with my parents before I moved to Nashville, so I did like six months in Chattanooga in an apartment. And [giggles] my mom makes these really great mashed potatoes, which I’ve modified the recipe, but they’re delicious and I wanted to make him these potatoes, because I knew I could make these potatoes. Well, I did not grow up with a very updated kitchen, so I didn’t have a [garbage] disposal, it was very new to me. So, I peeled the bag of potatoes and put the potato peels in to the sink and tried to use the disposal and it broke it before he got there. Annnd, I turned the water on, and I was baking chicken and I was cooking broccoli and mashed potatoes, and just turned the water on and then I forgot I had the water on, so I overflowed the kitchen sink with the potato peels, and it looked like something died in my sink and my sink was like spitting it up. It was horrible. I was panicking and trying to get it all cleaned up before he got there, and he knocked in the middle of it, like knocked on the door. He was early, of course. He’s always early, and he freaking knocked. I had like potato peels flying through the air, my potatoes were boiling over. I was still boiling the potatoes. I was running behind and he was running early, so it was just crazy. But, we’ve had some great Valentine’s. Last Valentine’s, he cooked for me and everything was smooth, so maybe he should be the cook. Uh, I’m a great cook, I just was trying to use a disposal for the first time, and that was pretty embarrassing.”
Little Big Town (Jimi & Karen fell in love) OC: (Kimberly) …to be together. :48 JIMI: “We were in the band a long time before there was ever anything which is interesting. I think there was always something underlying there that we were kind of trying to ignore. And then when the opportunity came, when all of us, ended up single kind of at the same time, a very strange turn of events for the band in a lot of different ways. And those feelings, you were able to come out with them finally. It was like, we’re single. Let’s get together. And, you know, she has a beautiful heart and she’s absolutely gorgeous and I just love her dearly.”
PHILLIP: “Get a room!” [laughs]
KIMBERLY: “They’re a perfect match. They really are. They were meant to be together.”
Luke Bryan (Valentine’s Day) OC: …full day. :11
“Well, I mean Valentine’s Day is, it’s kinda me and Caroline’s day just to go and just being with one another for a full day.”
To read more about the life of Mrs. Ruth Musick “Mama Ruth” Jackson, go to www.McKoon.com.