Arts & Entertainment

Alan Jackson to release bluegrass album

by Bradley Hartsell

Newnan hero Alan Jackson will step away from the demands of commercial country radio to release the aptly titled “Bluegrass Album” on Sept. 23.

According to Jackson’s website, Sammy Shelor, who plays banjo on the new album, says the idea was to produce a back-to-roots bluegrass album that didn’t, in the words of Jackson himself, “sound like all the other bluegrass albums country artists cut in this town.”

Jackson’s debut album, “Here in the Real World,” was released in 1989 and he’s never gone longer than two years in between albums. “The Bluegrass Album” will be released on his own label, Alan’s Country Records, and is the followup to the 2012 release “Thirty Miles West.”

For the majority of his 14 albums thus far, Jackson has kept the same classic sound that made him a country music star back in ‘89. His gift for stompin’ honky tonks and thoughtful ballads made him a megastar in the ‘90s and has given him status as country’s elder statesman in a time when honky-tonk is being marginalized into nostalgia.

And as mainstream country music continues to blur into pop, rap, and rock ‘n roll, Jackson is staying true to himself and finally giving himself over to a project he has been hinting at for years. Shelor indicates that Ronnie Bowman and Marty Raybon are touchstones Jackson hopes to evoke on the new album, both legendary bluegrass figures many fans may have never even heard of.

Despite the enormous success of Jackson simply putting his rhythm and charm to record, the left turn on “The Bluegrass Album” does come with precedence. 2006’s “Red on a Rose” was produced by Alison Krauss and traded in Jackson’s classic honky-tonk shuffle for subdued backroom ballads comprised of almost entirely cover songs. While lacking the pizzazz and country boy fun of other albums, “Red on a Rose” peaked at No. 1 on the country Billboard charts and even earned distinction as the best Jackson album to date by some critics.

After returning to his familiar sound, Jackson is again subverting the trends of his peers by exploring bluegrass in a time it seems a forgotten commodity. The new album, unlike “Red on a Rose,” is made up of mostly original material, and the remaining tracks will include the likes of The Dillards’ “There is a Time,” John Anderson’s “Wild and Blue,” and a ¾-time version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Shelor says that the songs are to vary between a healthy mix of “punchy, drivey” songs and ballads, which is sure to come as good news to Jackson fans who still like to dosey doe.

Though country music’s popularity is arguably at an all-time high, thanks to crossover successes like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, and newcomer duo Florida Georgia Line, there are many fans who prefer their country music without all the new-age bells and whistles. Alan Jackson has always been a pillar for such fans, and with an old-fashioned bluegrass album on the way, Jackson will once again prove to be a timeless treasure.

Jackson grew up in Newnan. Much of his family still lives here.



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