Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Top 10: Alan Jackson

      Alan Jackson has been a stalwart of country music since 1989.  Alan found a way to mix the traditions of yesterday with modern elements to create a sound in the mid to late 90's that sold millions of records and kept traditionalists happy.  Alan is a living legend, and narrowing down his career to 10 songs was a daunting task, but here goes my best shot at it.

10. Little Man -Alan stands up for small business owners.  In a world of non offensive music and generic lyrics, Alan made a vocal protest in song form, longing for the simpler days of mom and pop shops.  As always, Alan holds his ground and remains classy while doing it.

9. Someday -An oft overlooked song in the Alan Jackson songbook, "Someday" is one of my favorites.  Its sound takes you straight back in time to the days of George Jones, and the lyrics are sad and heartfelt.  This would be a career song for anyone else, but with such a huge catalog, this classic is just another notch in the belt for Alan.

8. Don't Rock The Jukebox -While Alan is known for his simple and heartfelt tunes, Alan can write a straight honky-tonker like nobody's business with just as much ease.  This song proves you can have fun and still make songs with artistic value.

7.  Gone Country -For some reason, nobody seems to think of Alan Jackson as a protester or trouble-maker, but with songs like this one and "Little Man" and his defiance on two separate occasions of the CMA (once over shortening a George Jones song, and once over using prerecorded tracks over a live band, which you will see here) Alan is certainly a modern day "outlaw".  With "Gone Country" , Alan takes to task all of the pop and rock singers who decide that they should make some easy money carpetbagging in the country music world.  Strong words disguised in a fun song make this a great tongue-in-cheek protest.  Watch the video closely.  The CMA asked Alan to use prerecorded backing music as opposed to his band playing live.  Alan was furious, but he was stuck.  So, Alan had his drummer not use sticks during the performance, to show they weren't really playing.  Watch the drummer behind Alan and see his subtle, but effective protest.  Alan hasn't had to use a prerecorded track since.

6. Here In The Real World -Alan not only has great songwriting ability, as shown in this song among many others, but he can flat out sing.  "Here in The Real World" is one of his best vocal performances.  The melancholy lyrics and steel guitar arrangement create a classic sound that will go down as one of the best songs in modern country history. 

5. Livin' On Love - Another simple take on life and the human condition, Alan delivers this song about the different stages of love with grace and class.  The song has a positive message, an infectious melody, and some of the prettiest fiddle solos you'll ever hear.

4.  Drive (For Daddy Gene) - As I mentioned before, one of Alan's best qualities is the ability to take the human experience and simplify it into 3-5 minutes of rhymes that we can all relate to.  This song may not be groundbreaking, but it is as touching of a tribute to father as I have heard.  Driving cars is where Alan best connected with his dad, and how Alan himself best connects with his daughters.  Great song.

3. Remember When - Much like "Livin' On Love", this song progresses through the different stages of marriage. It goes from falling in love to marriage to children to growing old, all with the simple poise and presence that only Alan can bring.  Nothing about this song is overstated or overdone, it is as simplistic and honest as you can get. 

2. Chattahoochie - The summer song to end all summer songs.   Let's be honest, when all these pretty boys of today write their obligatory feel good summer song for their album (or if you're Luke Bryan or Florida-Georgia Line, you write 15 feel good summer songs for your album), they are trying to create their own "Chattahoochie".  This song is fun, catchy, and still surprisingly contains some depth for a silly song.  It's safe to say every country boy or girl in America listened to this on a porch or boat or in a truck during some point every summer of their lives, and learned a lot about livin' (and a little 'bout love).

1.  Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning - After the events of September 11, 2001, Americans were sad, angry, conflicted, and most of all, confused.  Some wanted to fight, others wanted to cry, but we all wanted to just express our confusion and feelings somehow.  Alan Jackson wrote this song in the middle of the night a few days after 9/11, and performed it for the first time live on the CMAs.  At that moment, America healed a little bit.  A song is just words on paper set to music, but when set to this magnitude, it can be so much more.  Alan, as he always does, tapped into exactly what we as Americans were feeling that day, with such elegance that now, 13 years later, I still start to get misty-eyed when I hear it.  This isn't a career song, its a generation's song.  Someday when historians look back at 9/11, this song will be the soundtrack to the healing that took place after. 

With a discography like Alan Jackson's, the omissions are virtually endless.  So many songs could be swapped around and replaced that 10 different people could have 10 different lists. Let me know what you think in the comments section, and remember, so what Alan Jackson has always done and Keep It Country Kids!!!

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