Album Review: Alan Jackson - "Where Have You Gone"

No longer chasing radio hits, Alan Jackson now is free to explore "harder country," and keeping traditional country music alive.

When country singers get to be 62, they don’t usually make epic, 21-track albums. Nobody told Alan Jackson about this informal guideline, however, because his fine new release is lengthy, yet doesn’t ever seem long. Jackson has one of those distinctly fine country voices; a voice one can listen to indefinitely.

Jackson has called this album “harder country” than what he’s done in the past, which is really saying something. Jackson is one who has always kept the traditional country flame burning strong. He, after all, released the none too subtle “Murder on Music Row” in 2000, which harshly criticized the genre’s wide straying from its roots. This new album’s title track is also a type of last rites for country music, if you will. This one is so sad, though, it plays out like Jackson’s actually mourning a real person. It’s slow, tragic, yet beautiful in its own perverse way.

One called “Way Down In My Whisky,” though, is a post-breakup drinking song, where time spent deep in the bottle brings back his lost love’s ghost. Sonically this, and all the album’s other tracks, feature traditional instrumentation. There’s no shortage of fiddle and steel guitar throughout.

The album closes with one of the few Jackson didn’t write, called “The Older I Get.” It speaks of how age helps clarify and bring into focus what’s truly important in life. It’s not the material stuff that matters most, but the relationships we have with one another that matter most. This album reveals how Alan Jackson still has much to say, and nobody speaks traditional country better than this man.

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