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.
You can catch Keith Urban on NBC’s The Voice the next two weeks. He will serve as an adviser for Blake Shelton’s team beginning tonight (October 15th) through October 23rd. Catch Keith and Blake, as well as the rest of the celebrity coaches, on the singing competition show beginning at 8pm ET on NBC.
Set your DVR: Alan Jackson will be the subject of a new documentary, Small Town Southern Man on AXS-TV Tuesday night (October 16th) at 10pm ET.
Carrie Underwood and her husband Mike Fisher hosted a benefit earlier this month for Danita’s Children, a cause near and dear to both of their hearts. The event, which featured performances by Carrie and friend Brad Paisley, raised nearly $600,000 for the organization to help provide medical care, food and education to orphaned and impoverished children in Haiti.
Luke Bryan takes a break during auditions for American Idol to play a little on the piano and sing Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.” The cameras caught him in action.
Auditions intermission with @LukeBryanOnline on the 🎹.
— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) October 15, 2018
Shania Twain will be joined by Jake Owen and Travis Tritt for the new competition show, Real Country, which debuts November 13th at 10pm ET on the USA Network.
Halloween is Wednesday, October 31st, and the holiday has some of your favorite country stars getting into costumes, while others are recalling memories of Halloweens past.
Adam Hambrick (Halloween) OC: …five-years-old. :10
“My grandmother made me a Ghostbusters jumpsuit, and I had the proton backpack and I went as Peter Venkman, the Ghostbuster, when I was five-years-old.”
AJ (Halloween) OC: …cute, but…[laughs] :17
“Aww, I remember some, when they were infants, they had like these little, they looked like a little pea pod, you know, or something. It’s like a little green pea or something. And I thought man, that’s awful. But Denise liked it, and I guess it was cute, but…(laughs).”
Billy Currington (Halloween) OC: …Halloween. :17
“You know, when I was a kid, I loved the trick and the treat. I loved dressing up. I was always wanting to be Dracula. That was my favorite guy. But, of course, who doesn’t love going door-to-door and getting these buckets of candy? [laughs] So, love, love Halloween.”
Brothers Osborne (Halloween candy) OC: (John) …go stale. [laughs] :34
TJ: “I would say, Snickers, Baby Ruth, Kit Kat and Reese’s too.” JOHN: “I always hated those houses that would give you bad candy, though. You’re like, ‘C’mon. Step it up.’ Spend the extra dollar on a bag, you know?” TJ: “A house when we were growing up used to give out whole candy bars. It was the best. You were like, ‘That house – that’s the honey hole of candy.’” JOHN: “I love it, and I love like at the end, like three or four days after Halloween you would see what candy was left, and it was always like those crappy cheap candies, and they would just go stale.” [laughs]
Brothers Osborne (carving pumpkins) OC: …or something. :25
“With our dad every year, we would go looking for pumpkins, and we would all get our own pumpkin to carve, and he would buy the biggest pumpkin that they had. It was huge. I mean, it was way too big for any one person, but he would love carving. He’s kind of an artsy guy. He was a great drawer and stuff, and he would carve the most terrifying, vicious looking, scary pumpkin you’d ever seen in your life, and it would be massive. It would be like on a 50-pound pumpkin or something.”
Brothers Osborne (zombie costume) OC: (John) …was so fun! :29
TJ: “Literally, you can dress up like a zombie and drag your foot behind you all day and make weird noises, and everyone finds that completely acceptable.” [laughs] JOHN: “One year I dressed up as a ‘90s redneck zombie with a mullet wig and an Alan Jackson denim coat. I never once broke character. That’s part of the thing — you can actually not break character and get away with it. And everywhere I went, even when I ordered a drink, I ordered it like a zombie that was falling apart. [laughs] It was so fun!”
Brothers Osborne (Halloween costume) OC: (TJ) …I love it. :37
TJ: “There was a costume I had when I was a kid that my dad made. I was a caterpillar, no, you were a caterpillar and I was a spider. And so I don’t know if you’re familiar with pipe insulation? It’s like these black tubes, and so I had these little black pipe insulators as my legs.” JOHN: “There were strings attached to him that would hold some of the black pipe insulators under his hands, and he’d put working gloves on the end of them and so when he’d raise his arms, all of the little spider legs would raise up with it. [laughs] I’m telling you, our parents were total hippies. They were just…” TJ: “Artsy-fartsy hippies. I love it.”
Clare Dunn (Halloween) OC: …and stuff. :23
“Halloween was always hit and miss. I mean it’s five miles to my nearest neighbor. So, for us if we wanted to go trick-or-treating or whatever, some of the country kids a couple of years would all band together and we’d drive around in vehicles from house to house to house. So, we’d all pile into a pickup and then we’d go annoy our neighbors for candy and stuff.”
Darius (Halloween) OC: …I’m into. :06
“Halloween’s big for me, because the kids love it. It’s my kids’ favorite holiday, so anything they’re into, I’m into.”
Dierks Bentley (Halloween) OC: … …around home. [laughs] :23
“Oh, when I was a kid, I was all into fireworks. Growing up in Arizona, we couldn’t get ’em, so we’d have ’em shipped in illegally. I still remember the name of the guy we’d call. His name was Joe, and he’d bring in, ship ’em in a package with no writing on ’em. We were all about M-80s in the mailboxes and bottle rocket wars. To me, as a kid, Halloween was fireworks, was blowing up stuff around home. [laughs]”
Eric Church (Halloween) OC: …Franklin Street. 1:18
“My favorite Halloween costume really came, I remember when I got a little older my first year of college, there’s this thing they do every year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Halloween on Franklin Street. We drove down from Boone, North Carolina. I had a bunch of friends that went to University of North Carolina, and we didn’t have costumes and didn’t realize until we were on the way that we had to have costumes. So, we stopped at a costume place in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s Halloween, so there’s a run on everything and couldn’t find anything. And we end up getting sent around, driving around town. We end up finding this hole in the wall place, but they had the full costume, Sesame Street outfits. The real deal. The real ones [with] feathers and fur. We were Elmo, Cookie Monster and I was Big Bird, and the Big Bird was the actual Big Bird. It’s about 7-foot-4, and yiou looked out of the body and then you had these straps that went on since the head was a lot higher. There’s a lot of beer involved in Franklin Street, so we get down there and as the night went on, my straps broke, so the head would pivot. And so, I would be walking one way and the head would be facing the other, and it just became this funny…I didn’t know the head was on backwards. I had no idea. I see out of the body, so I’m just kinda walking around and people were talking to my ass-end. [laughs] The whole time peiople’d come up and start talking and go, ‘Hey, turn around.’ And I’d turn around, and they’d go, ‘No turn around.’ It was a mess. That year, there was no other Big Bird on Franklin Street.”
Jon Langston (Halloween show) OC: …memorable Halloween. :59
“So we played a show a few years ago in Baton Rouge and I go off stage and I come back on stage for the encore. I don’t know this until midway through the song, I’m just into the crowd, like I’m engaged. I’m in the zone, and I just see everyone, like everybody else behind me but me and I’m like what’s going on. I turn around and each of them has a different huge mask on, like one of those stuffed animal masks, like my drummer has a dinosaur head on. My guitar players, one of ‘em has monkey head on, the other has a unicorn head on. And my bass player has like a, I think a dog or cat head or something like that. I couldn’t finish the song I was laughing so hard just seeing them playing with these like over-sized huge mask heads on Halloween night. That was funny. It was a good prank, so that was probably the most memorable Halloween.”
Jon Pardi (Halloween candy) OC: …during Halloween. :06
“Man! The candy corn is pretty good, and that’s seasonal, so it only kinda pops out during Halloween.”
Jon Pardi (Halloween) 1 OC: …the Superman. :15
“Man, I went through phases of costumes – the Superman costume, then it was a ninja, then I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle one year. I remember rockin’ the Superman.”
Jordan Davis (Halloween costumes) OC: …jet black. :49
“I can remember being really big into Power Rangers. I always liked the Red Ranger. I remember being Red Ranger one Halloween. I remember me and my brother being big into the Ninja Turtles. I was Donatello one year, which I think was the purple turtle. I think, though, my favorite Halloween was I was in college and I went as Luigi from Mario and Luigi, and I actually grew a legit mustache and dyed it jet black and ran into an e-girlfriend at the costume shop and completely forgot I had the mustache on. So, when Is saw her, she was like, ‘So, you’re going with a mustache nowadays, huh?’ [laughs] I remember being like, ‘I swear this is part of my Halloween costume.’ [laughs] When I dyed my mustache, my top lip was black for a week. Like I really did dye it jet black.”
Jordan Davis (Halloween candy) OC: …some Starbursts. :21
“My favorite Halloween candy [is] probably Reese’s or M&M’s, although I love the variety of Starburst. It’s one that I feel like I only eat at Halloween, because I feel like at Halloween one of the popular ones is the two-piece Starburst things. So, probably Reese’s, M&Ms and throw in some Starbursts.”
Jordan Davis (no candy corn) OC: …they’re awful. :05
“You know what I never got? The candy corns. I’ve never been a candy corn guy. I think they’re awful.”
Luke Bryan (Halloween) OC: …your teeth. :21
“You can find out a lot about your neighbors by what kind of candy they put out. So, well, like full bars of Snickers bars, that’s what, and Reese’s cups, [but] the old chocolate popcorn ball of stuff, that’s no good either, like Dots – you get Dots one time of year and they pull your teeth.”
Luke Bryan (Halloween costumes) OC: …always has. :20
“Me and Caroline did one year where I dressed up as the old lady, and she dressed up as, she called herself a dirty old man. So, she went around acting like an old man saying snide comments to everybody. That was a fun one. The main thing is Caroline is big, she loves Halloween and always has.”
Luke Bryan (Halloween) 2 OC: …with all that. :33
“My tradition for Halloween is Caroline picks the outfit. I never know what I’m wearing. So that day, I’ll talk to the neighbors ‘cause I have a tractor back there and I’ll go get my tractor and get a big long trailer, and then I’ll run down to…a couple miles from the farm, we’ve got a big hay farmer that keeps hay and you run in there and pay him for his hay bales. And I’ll load the hay up and get the hayride ready and we’ll take all the kids behind the tractor and have a fun Halloween with all that.”
Maddie & Tae (Halloween) OC: …princesses. :24
TAE: “Oooooh, Halloween [is] my favorite holiday. Anyone who knows me knows I love all things scary and gory, so especially on Halloween all the scary movies that come out in theaters, I am there every single time.” MADDIE: “And I never go with her because I hate scary things.” TAE: “You know what’s funny? As little girls, everyone wants to dress up as princesses, and I think I was a witch like six years in a row. I just wanted to be scary.” MADDIE: “Girl, I was like Jasmine and you know [other] princesses.”
Travis Denning (Halloween costume) OC: …Busch Light. :21
“Honestly, I think one of my most proud and embarrassed Halloween costumes is I went as Terry from Reno 9-1-1. I had the roller skates, the short-shorts, the tied-up shirt. Looking back, it wasn’t the manliest thing I ever did, but it got a lot of laughs. And I think that year my favorite candy I ever had was Busch Light.”
Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood have earned American Music Awards nominations. Luke is up for Favorite Male Artist Country, while Carrie is nominated for Favorite Female Artist Country. The 2018 American Music Awards will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on October 9th at 8pm ET on ABC.
Eric Church was just announced as one of the performers at the 12th annual Stand4Heroes event at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 5th. Bruce Springsteen, Seth Meyers, Jim Gaffigan, Jon Stewart and many special guests will also participate. Tickets go on sale Thursday (September 13th) at Noon ET.
UMG Nashville has teamed up with the Gaither Music Group to create a new Gaither Gospel Series titled Country Gospel Collection. The first volume will include classic country gospel songs from some of the biggest names, including Alan Jackson and George Strait, as well as songs by Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Conway Twitty, among others. Country Gospel Collection Volume 1 will be released October 5th.
Country Gospel Collection Volume 1 Track List:
- Just A Closer Walk With Thee- Patsy Cline
- How Great Thou Art- Alan Jackson
- What A Friend We Have In Jesus- Glen Campbell
- Shall We Gather At The River- Tennessee Ernie Ford
- Take My Hand Precious Lord- Roy Acuff
- I Saw The Light- Hank Williams
- Will The Circle Be Unbroken- George Jones
- In The Garden- Loretta Lynn
- You’ll Never Walk Alone- Conway Twitty
- Peace In The Valley- Johnny Cash
- I Saw God Today- George Strait
- Amazing Grace- The Statler Brothers