By Scott Kiefer - For the News-Democrat

Alan Jackson likes to have a good time. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the stage singing in front of his fans, spending time this week with his family at spring break, or having quiet moments alone with his wife Denise.

One can be sure that a good time will be had when Jackson plays at the Scottrade Center on March 27. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com. It's appropriate that Jackson’s newest collection for Arista Records at Nashville — for which he wrote all 17 songs — is named "Good Time," as well. It’s already generated a trio of back-to-back-to-back chart-topping singles with the title track and the songs, "Country Boy" and "Small Town Southern Man." It's loose, inventive, traditional, high-spirited, sad, intense, laid-back, and clear as a bell.

"I guess I felt like I needed something that wasn’t entirely a big, heavy album," says Jackson, whose last release, 2006’s profoundly acclaimed Like Red on a Rose, was an adventurous exploration of country-soul with producer Alison Krauss.

"I felt like I wanted something that had some fun on it, because when I play in concert, people still want to hear songs like ‘Chattahoochee’ and ‘Don’t Rock the Jukebox’ — all those are a big part of our success too, as well as the big ballads," Jackson said. "That’s why I wanted to call it ‘Good Time,’ even though the whole album’s not a bunch of party songs."

The collection reunites Jackson with his excellent long-time Nashville producer Keith Stegall, who encouraged him to stick with his own songs for this record.

"We just went into the studio and started fooling with them," Jackson says of the 22 songs he brought to the studio. "And every one I played, Keith would say, ‘Yeah, we ought to cut that one.’

"I don’t push my own songs; I always look for guidance from Keith. I’ve always gone in and said, ‘We just want to make a good record.’ I don’t care if I write any of them or all of them. But this time I said, ‘Are you sure you think we should do all these of mine?’ We had some good outside songs he had found.

"The songs that ended up on the record all have different qualities that make up the record. It’s a mixture of styles and subjects so somebody can hopefully find something on there to like."

As a songwriter, Jackson always has been a little tricky to classify. His work is a hybrid of Nashville professionalism and personal expressiveness: His songs offer the hummable polish of the most expert Music Row copyrights at the same time that they expose the personal interiors that listeners associate with the work of self-contained singer-songwriters.

In the end, Jackson is a dedicated, informed country classicist unafraid of the new. He is a first-rate songwriter who doesn’t insist on singing only his own songs. He writes "heavy" songs about love and the world but also writes "light" songs that refuse to go light-headed. He wants to do what he wants to do but he also considers how his fans feel about things. He’s won every award in the book but doesn’t let that be the end of his creative stories.

"Keith and I just wanted to go in there and have fun making a record. We wanted to make a country record with the songs we wanted," Jackson said. "My life is very wonderful, and I’m happy, and I think a lot of that reflects on my songwriting now. It’s a good place.

"I don’t feel like I need to prove or earn anything. I just want to make good music that I like and that I feel like people who buy my records might like. That’s the bottom line, right there."



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