2015 CD REVIEW
ANGELS AND ALCOHOL (ACR-SONY)
ALAN JACKSON HITCHES RIDE WITH JACK KEROUAC
HANK WASN'T IN THE BACK
“Well, I hitched a ride with this beatnik guy/ he said, looks like you read me/ my name is Jack Kerouac/ and I was gone before you met me.” - Gone Before You Met Me - Michael White-Michael Heeney.
It was also covered by Hank Williams, Jr. and Tim McGraw and appeared at the end of his Real Good Man music video that was recorded live.
Writer Gary Gentry says "there's a mysterious magic connected with this song that spells cold chills, leading me to believe that it was meant to be and that David Allan Coe was meant to record it."
He added that when was looking up the date of Williams' death in his autobiography, he opened the book to the exact page. Later, when Coe, now 75, was performing the song at the Opry House for a TV show, the lights and power in the Opryland complex went out when performing the last verse when it says, Hank.
Hank died at 29 on New Years' Day in 1953 in the back of his Cadillac en route to a gig in Canton, Ohio.
The last promoter to book Hank in Texas was Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby who was also the first to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald after he allegedly assassinated JFK in 1963.
Anyway back to Jackson, 56, who wrote seven of the 10 songs including the title track and single Jim And Jack and Hank that leads us back to the chauffeur in the Coe hit.
JIM AND JACK AND HANK
“Yeah, now go on and leave me baby/ I don't need you/ I got Jim and Jack and Hank/ you go ahead, I'll be A-OK, cos I've got Jose, Captain Morgan/ not to mention, call ol George and Tammy/ and Loretta and Merle, Willie Nelson, big John Cash.”- Jim and Jack And Hank - Alan Jackson.
The singer spurns the positive love song plague littering charts with a good old fashioned angst anthem with an irresistible hook that has shot it into the sales stratosphere with first week sales exceeding 48,000.
“It's a fun little up-tempo tune about the same old story, girl leaves guy and, this time, he's not going to be heartbroken,”
So what is the singer's favourite poison?
“I've had them all, but I've always kind of stood by Jack Daniels,” Jackson admits.
“He's helped me through a lot of good and bad times. Helped me write a lot of songs. So he's a good friend.”
Angels and Alcohol is Jackson's first country LP since Thirty Miles West in 2012 that also debuted at #1.
He performed the title track live on the Jimmy Fallon Tonight TV show - a welcome surrogate outlet post-Letterman for roots country.
During Jackson's mainstream hiatus he released gospel collection Precious Memories II and The Bluegrass Album.
He kicks off his disc with the ballad You Can Always Come Home - his paternal paean urging children to chance their arms on their dreams, knowing the home fires are burning and the family door wide open.
“Spread your wings, follow your dreams/and remember anytime/you can always come home”,
It segues into the love at first two daiquiris with a “chicken legged gal, freckles on her face/ stringy blonde hair and twenty inch waist” in You Never Know, fired by the quaintly named fiddle Hoot Hester .
He finishes by escaping the rat race through the levees in his Chevy from Texas in a three day refresher course with escapist dreams of Mexico, Tequila And Me .
No expensive regimented health farm for this mechanic's son from Georgian town Newnan - just a little south of the border bender and mind cleanser.
In between there's the frequently jangled love triangle in bucolic ballad The One You're Waiting On - penned by Jackson's husband and wife kinfolk Adam and Shannon Wright from a female perspective.
ANGELS AND ALCOHOL
“You can't mix angels and alcohol/ I don't think God meant for them to get along/ when it takes control you can't love no one at all/ you can't mix angels and alcohol.” - Angels And Alcohol - Alan Jackson.
But don't get the impression that Jackson sings solely of the honky tonk hedonism of life beyond the neon.
The singer explores romantic redemption in the waltz I Leave A Light On, a vigil for lost romance with religious rinse, and human frailties and a good woman's love in Flaws - “ scars are tattoos that went rotten”.
There's also a dab of positive Biblical philosophy in the Troy Jones-Greg Becker tune When God Paints.
The Stegall A team session serfs - guitarists Brent Mason and J.T. Corenflos, steel guitarists Jim Vest and Paul Franklin, Andy Leftwich and Stuart Duncan on mandolin and fiddle, drummer Tommy Harden bassist Jimmy Lee Sloan, Michael Severs on dobro and Robbie Flint on Silvertone slide - ensure Jackson's audio access.
So does Greenwood Hart on piano, acoustic guitar and hand drum and pianist-organist Gary Prim, a prolific songwriter from East Tennessee and not to be confused with Doyle "Butch" Primm - Oklahoma-reared musician and first ex-singing spouse of Alabama singer-songwriter Allison Moorer.
Its 27 years since expatriate Australasian promoter-publisher Barry Coburn and then singing spouse Jewel Coburn managed Jackson from their Music Row office that doubled as their first Nashville abode after eloping from leafy eastern Melbourne suburb Armadale in the slipstream of promoting Emmylou Harris's 1984 Australian tour.
Jackson has since sold 60 million albums, laced with 51 Top 10 hits and his devastatingly accurate music industry parody Murder On Music Row with Strait and fellow Texan Lee Ann Womack on harmony vocals.
He also added to his eclectic musical taste with an Alison Krauss produced bluegrass album that topped that genre's charts.
Jackson backs his self-belief in his penchant for writing alone.
“I've been doing that for a few years now,” Jackson revealed recently.
“When I got started on Music Row , I would write with different writers. Then, once my career took off, I was gone all the time - playing a couple hundred shows a year. You weren't home long enough to wash your clothes. I ended up writing a lot by myself, and it just kind of stayed that way.”
And he's realistic about his fan base.
“You know, I used to think if you could have a hit or two and your career lasts three or four years, you're very lucky,” added Jackson who nailed the invasion of country by pop artists many moons ago with the Bob McDill penned historic hit Gone Country.
“I never thought I'd have a career that lasts 25 years and is still going - I didn't imagine all this could happen.”
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE – AND ONE TO JOIN NU COUNTRY TV
So, apart from a third tour of Australia what else is on Jackson's horizon?
He recorded A Million Ways to Die the title track from comedy movie A Million Ways to Die in the West that opened on May 30.
The movie features a score by Emmy Award-winning composer and conductor Joel McNeely, with the new song sung by Jackson and written by McNeely and Seth MacFarlane, the film's director, producer, co-writer and co-star.
MacFarlane, the creative force behind the 2012 blockbuster Ted and TV show Family Guy approached Jackson to record the song for the film and its soundtrack.
MacFarlane plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert.
After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man.
When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage, and they begin to fall in love.
But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test.
Starring alongside MacFarlane are Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris.