Alexa

Alan Jackson partners with Alison Krauss for moody, reflective `Like Red on a Rose'

Alan Jackson partners with Alison Krauss for moody, reflective `Like Red on a Rose'

When Alan Jackson approached bluegrass star Alison Krauss about producing his next record, he was thinking of a rolling cascade of banjo and fiddle behind his laid-back vocals.
But Krauss had something else in mind.
The result, "Like Red on a Rose," marks a bluesy, romantic turn for the country superstar who shot to fame singing good-time anthems like "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and "Chattahoochee."
The tone is quiet and contemplative, with the 47-year-old Jackson pondering travel, home and love in his easygoing baritone.
"I'm at a point in my life where I've done a lot and lived a lot," he said. "I think that's reflected in my songwriting and song selection. When I wrote `Chattahoochee' I was quite a bit younger, and that was more of a youthful message."
Krauss set the course. A 20-time Grammy winner, she had wanted to make a record from the perspective of a man at peace with his life, someone who looks at things differently than when he was younger.
Jackson, who's been married to his high school sweetheart, Denise, since 1979 and has three daughters, seemed a good fit.
"He's a family man and his wife is always held so high," Krauss said. "This is not a record of young love, not a record of new love. This is a record of love that has stood the test.
"When picking the material out, I was thinking `What would I want a man to say to me? If he was sitting across the table from me, what would I want to hear him say.'"
Krauss brought the songs to Jackson, who broke with his usual routine of writing most of his own material. She also chose the musicians and arranged the material.
"He just came in and killed it. He sang beautifully," she said of Jackson.
Jackson has shown a soft side before. "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" was a rumination on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The sentimental "Remember When" had an elderly couple reflecting on their lives together. "Drive" celebrated the bond between a father and son.
But he seems more restrained here, singing at one point, "I don't sing like I used to. Sometimes less is more."
While talking about the album, Jackson refers to it as "Alison's concept" or "Alison's project" more than once and acknowledges being a little uneasy at first.
"We cut three songs initially to see what it was going to sound like, to see if it was going to work," Jackson said. "Initially, I was a little anxious about it. I couldn't hear exactly what she wanted to do."
With the record, Jackson looks to regain his hold on country radio. While his last two releases _ "What I Do" in 2004 and the "Precious Memories" gospel album earlier this year _ have gone platinum, neither produced the blockbuster singles or sales of some of his previous records.
To be fair, "Precious Memories" was intended as a Christmas gift to his mother, not a commercial release. His label, Arista Nashville, didn't even spin off a single for radio, and platinum status for a gospel record is rare.
Still, after racking up six No. 1 hits between 2000 and 2004, Jackson hasn't had a chart-topper in a couple years.
"I don't think he's lost a step ... but they (radio) don't give you a free pass," said John Hart, president of Nashville-based Bullseye Marketing Research. "It's a song-by-song thing anymore. It doesn't matter who you are."
The first single and title cut from "Like Red on a Rose" captures the sound of the album, with Jackson singing over a moody backdrop of keyboard and guitar. The song was No. 20 and rising on the Billboard chart.
"It's anything but a ditty," said Ken Boesen, program director at WPOC-FM (93.1) in Baltimore. "It's so out-of-the-ordinary for Alan. It seems to be a little on the polar side. People either really like it or really don't like it."
People really like Jackson, though. He's sold 45 million records and had 31 No. 1 hits since 1990 and continues to be one of the format's biggest stars.
The Newnan, Georgia, native moved to Nashville in 1985 and worked at the cable network TNN while developing his songwriting. His wife worked as a flight attendant to pay the bills and helped get his career going when she spotted Glen Campbell at an airport and slipped him a demo tape. Their chance meeting led to Jackson writing songs for Campbell's music publishing company.
Arista signed him in 1989, and along with Garth Brooks and Clint Black he was part of a wave of new stars that reinvigorated country music.
He's remained a staunch traditionalist with a knack for hitting the right tone at the right time. In 1994 he sang "Gone Country" about carpetbaggers descending on Nashville when the format jumped in popularity. In 1998 he had "Little Man," about the economy squeezing out small businessmen. In 2002 his "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" expressed the shock of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as any song.
Like a character in one of his new songs, Jackson seems pleased with his career and his life. He says he's matured as a husband and a man and recognizes what's important. He recently performed a small benefit to help a Tennessee family devastated by a tornado.
"I'm kind of at a place in my career where I don't worry about a lot," he said.


Updated : 2021-04-14 12:40 GMT+08:00