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Alan Jackson

Angels and Alcohol – 2015 (Arista Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Alan Jackson, circa 2015, now might be, unfortunately, considered a retro artist. Jackson, thankfully, does not veer from his traditional country beat on his first new studio disc in three years. It's the traditional sound that makes him a throwback today.

In an age of rock and rap meshing with country, Jackson will have none of that on this meat-and-potatoes rendering. Jackson's viewpoint has always been about the simple truths of life. He makes that clear in the leadoff track, "You Can Always Come Home" where he opines, "wherever life's road lead, you can get back/to a love that's strong and free/You will never be alone." Acoustic guitar starts the song, and pedal is prominent throughout in which AJ's view of the hometown life is a lot different than the trucks, dirt roads and hot chicks of some other "country" singers today.

Jackson picks up the pace in a '50s sounding, uptempo "You Never Know" with fiddle punctuating the song.

Jackson makes it clear he looks back - at least musically - in the single "Jim and Jack and Hank" where the Jim and Jack are Beam and Daniels respectively, while Hank is Williams, of course, who will help him through his breakup. When Jackson later name checks Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and "old friend" George Strait at the end, it's legit. Relying on alcohol has been the fabric of country songs for decades, but even that seems to have fallen out of practice in recent years except if having a good time, not as a crutch.

After 25 years of recording, Jackson doesn't do so much different this time around. The slower numbers ("I Leave a Light On," "When God Paints," the title track where Jackson returns to a spiritual theme) sound just as good up against the more uptempo ("Flaws" and the closing "Mexico, Tequila And Me").

Jackson stays within his wheelbase on "Angels and Alcohol." He wrote 7 of the 10 songs and, of course, Keith Stegall produces. They remain a winning combination a quarter of a century later. Jackson makes retro sound most welcome.