GAC Album Review: Alan Jackson’s Precious Memories Volume II

April 9, 2013 By Daryl Addison

Alan Jackson’s 2006 Gospel album Precious Memories was originally intended as a private Christmas gift for his mother. However, at the urging of friends and family, he released the collection and immediately found that it resonated profoundly with the public. Precious Memories went on to sell more than a million copies in the US alone, and now seven years later, Alan has made a second volume available with 11 new recordings.

For Precious Memories Vol. II, which is in stores now, Alan looked to the original list of song choices that made up Vol. I. “Denise [Alan's wife] and I had made a list of 30 to 40 songs to do for that first album,” Alan says in a press release. “We had so many that we didn’t get to, I thought we’d go in and do a few more just the same way – heartfelt and simple.”

With stark acoustic arrangements focusing the project on the album’s testimony, Alan delivers a deeply personal devotional on Vol. II made up of traditional hymns and Southern Gospel. Working again with Keith Stegall (Randy Travis, Zac Brown Band), who produced the first volume, the pristine recordings pair shiny steel strings and emotive piano with the purity of Alan’s smooth, natural voice. Whether he’s moving exquisitely through a bouncing vocal rhythm on “He Lives,” or walking up and down his melodies in the ¾-time, “Just As I Am,” Alan’s gifted performance draws listeners completely inside the music.

The sterling hymns “Amazing Grace” and “Wherever He Leads Me I’ll Go” bookend a collection that mightily stays the traditional Southern Gospel course. “Love Lifted Me” is a redemptive tale full of warm harmonies and a poignant key change during the song’s back third. The classic, Sunday morning service, “Only Trust Him” showcases a reverberating voice that can be felt through its vibration, and on “There Is Power In The Blood,” quick guitars and thumping bass pace country piano for an uplifting song of praise. Alan’s song choices feature varied tempos and deliveries ranging from delicate (“Amazing Grace”) to deliberate (“O How I Love Jesus”) to give each song its own identity.

Vol. II is a thoughtful collection where each song provides a new consideration. Themes such as redemption, love and faith reoccur throughout the project, but unique moments captured in works like “Sweet Hour Of Prayer” give the album its depth. Here, it’s the inner peace gained through prayer. “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” which offers some of the album’s most intricate harmonies, dates back to a 1893 hymn written by Sunday School teacher James Milton Black regarding attendance in Heaven at roll call.

Through these subtleties and shifts, Alan does a masterful job crafting a collection expressing a full statement regarding his own faith. Though the title track, “Precious Memories,” is credited back to a 1925 hymn written by J.B.F. Wright, the descriptions, I remember Mother praying / Father too on bended knee, come across with such a genuine honesty that we just know Alan had these experiences. And this is what makes Precious Memories Vol. II so special. With performances that are incredibly personal and intimate, Alan’s openness strikes a deep chord with a relatable note that listeners will be able to share.

Key Tracks – “Precious Memories,” “Only Trust Him,” “Amazing Grace,” “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder”