Review: Alan Jackson in comfort zone on new CD

Review: Alan Jackson in comfort zone on new CD

By MICHAEL McCALL, For The Associated Press

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alan Jackson, "Freight Train" (Arista Nashville)

On the twentieth anniversary of his debut album, Alan Jackson continues to prove consistency need not equal complacency. After a few years of challenging himself with side roads that explored traditional gospel, adult-contemporary love songs, and a wide-ranging collection of songs he wrote by himself, Jackson settles back into his comfort zone on "Freight Train."

The 12 songs mostly find him in a laid-back groove befitting the 51-year-old's laconic style. "Freight Train" delivers wise lyrics about love, family, loss and familiar comforts set to down-home melodies that lope along with natural ease. Everything seems so casually offhand that it's almost easy to miss the wisdom of the lyrics and the catchiness of the melodies.

Like influences Merle Haggard or Don Williams, Jackson so wholly embodies his musical persona that, when he's in the zone like this, there's no strain or filter between who he is and what he sings. As universal as the songs "After 17" and "The Best Keeps Getting Better" may be, it's also clear he's drawing on real-life observations about his daughters and his wife.

That way of presenting a lived-in talent without any artifice is why Jackson ranks with the best singer-songwriters of his generation — and why "Freight Train" proves he's still chugging, powerfully and gracefully, on down the line.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The title song, written by Fred Eaglesmith, is a hard-rolling acoustic boogie tune that gives the singer and his expert studio band a chance to fire up some locomotive power.