Posted Mar 26th 2013 by Deborah Evans-Price/ The Boot
Few things are more gratifying for an artist than hearing how their music has touched someone. It's a feeling Alan Jackson knows well and truly appreciates. As Alan's second set of gospel classics, Precious Memories Volume II, releases today (March 26), the soft-spoken singer is still rather surprised at the success of the first double-platinum selling collection.
"I had so many compliments from fans and even people who aren't really country fans. It just overwhelmed me," Alan tells the Boot. "People have told me -- all over this country and even other parts of the world -- how much they loved that album. It's not just people older than me. I've seen young kids at my shows who have on the t-shirt that had the cover of that gospel album on it."
Alan's first gospel album was released in 2006, hitting No. 1 on both the country and Christian album charts and becoming one of the best-selling albums of his career. It caught the Newnan, Ga. native off guard because he had never intended the album to be released commercially. He recorded it as a Christmas gift for his mother. When a record company executive coaxed him into letting it be released, Alan was unprepared for the impact it would have on people.
Sitting in his tour bus, wearing jeans and a blue plaid shirt, Alan leans back and smiles as he relates stories about the people those classic gospel songs have touched. "I was out at the airport renewing my parking pass, and I went into this little office," Alan recalls. "There was a young woman and she was just doing my stuff. She saw my name and said, 'Are you the one that did the 'Precious Memories?' I said, 'Yeah.' She said, 'I'm from South Africa and we sang all those songs and watched that TV program of yours in South Africa.' She was telling me how much she loved it, so I sent her a copy."
Alan was surprised to find out the project was also a hit in China. "I had another friend whose parents do missionary work and they went to China. They just got there and went to this church and when they walked in, they were all singing along with my CD in there, all the Chinese people. I'm very surprised at how well it's been received and how many people have loved that thing. That's the main reason we did another one, because I've been asked since the first one, 'When are you going to do another?' I did feel like, well, if I'm going to do another one, I needed to go on and do it because my mother and Denise's mother are getting way up there now."
The first volume included such classic hymns as "The Old Rugged Cross," "I'll Fly Away" and "Softly and Tenderly." Surprisingly, even though it was titled "Precious Memories," that song wasn't included. Alan took care of that this time around. "I finally did 'Precious Memories' because everybody said, 'Why didn't you do 'Precious Memories?' You called it Precious Memories. I just loved the title but I guess the reason we didn't do it on the first album is that's just one of the songs that we didn't really sing much in the Baptist church. I don't know why. I don't even know if it's in the Baptist hymnal, to be honest with you."
Alan's wife, Denise, was among those who felt it should be included on the new collection. "She loves that song, too. I especially like the way Keith cut it," he says of his longtime producer Keith Stegall. "It sounds more uptempo than some people do it and it sounds more like a country song."
Precious Memories Volume II, released on ACR (Alan's Country Records) and EMI Records Nashville, also features such beloved gems as "There Is Power in the Blood," "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder," "Just As I Am," "Love Lifted Me," "He Lives" and "Amazing Grace." "I didn't really want to do that one because I felt like it's been done a lot," Alan says of "Amazing Grace. "But Denise said, 'I love that song. I want you to do it on this one.' After I did it, it's one of my favorites on there. I was glad we did it."
Alan is hoping people will enjoy Precious Memories Volume II as much as they did the first collection. "We didn't make the album with the intention of going out selling a bunch," he says. "It was just an honest effort to do something sweet for our mothers and I think that was a part of the feel of it. It was just sweet, honest, simple production and rendition of them. That's what we tried to do again."