Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alan Jackson "The Bluegrass Album" Album Review

     When Alan Jackson releases an album, you know it will be a gem.  He is a living legend who needs no introduction.  As radio airplay seems to have left him by the wayside, Alan has no plans to hang up his cowboy hat and rest on his laurels.  Alan is still making fantastic country music, but now without the confines of pushing for radio success.  The result is a concept album that ranks right up with the best releases of 2013 so far.

     The album is simply titled The Bluegrass Album, and features a plain white cover.  That laid back approach to marketing is a perfect picture of the sound of this album.  It's a straightforward cover and title, and a straightforward approach to bluegrass.  The whole album is pretty simple bluegrass, not much crazy speed picking like Old Crow Medicine Show, and not much of the modern "newgrass" sound like Nickel Creek, just easy listening simple bluegrass.  Alan has made a career of being simple and understated.  When Alan decided to make a bluegrass tribute, I expected nothing less.

     The album doesn't have a single bad track.  Some of the highlights include "Blue Ridge Mountain Song", a delightful story song that is equal parts happy and heartbreaking, and "Blacktop", which praises the paving of a dirt road in Alan's hometown.  The song is a stark contrast to the love affair country music seems to have with dirt roads.  Alan has always had a knack for understated protests, and this falls right into that vein.  Alan subtly points out that dirt roads aren't all they are cracked up to be, and seems to insinuate that maybe the artists bragging on them are full of it.  Simple but effective.  That's the Alan Jackson way.

     Alan does a magnificent cover of John Anderson's "Wild and Blue", putting a great bluegrass spin on it, and covers the Bill Monroe bluegrass standard "Blue Moon of Kentucky" with great respect for the song.  He even covers himself, putting a bluegrass spin on his own fun and upbeat album track "Let's Get Back To Me And You", which is one of my favorites.  From the blues of "Long Hard Road" to the poignant "There Is A Time" to the fun "Ain't Got Trouble Now", Alan Jackson covers life, love, and loss through music like nobody else can.  This album is simply a treat from front to back.

     Bluegrass is a genre within a genre that has great tradition and strong ties to its history.  Alan Jackson completely understands and respects those ties with this album.  This album is very bluegrass and very Alan Jackson at the same time.  While this album doesn't break down any walls or pave new ground, it is a very enjoyable listening experience.  The commercial success of the album on the charts and the strong performance of the video "Blue Ridge Mountain Song" on GAC prove that traditional country is still viable and relevant to the masses in 2013.  All in all, The Bluegrass Album is a win and a must have for any fan of bluegrass, country music, or just Alan Jackson.  As always, Alan Jackson keeps it country kids!

Standout Tracks: "Blue Ridge Mountain Song", "Blacktop", "Let's Get Back To Me And You", "There Is A Time", "Ain't Got Trouble Now", Long Hard Road", "Blue Moon of Kentucky", "Wild And Blue"

"Blue Ridge Mountain Song"


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