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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Alan Jackson doesn't go country; he is country

Fleet Centre, Boston, Sept. 20, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - There was no doubt from the get go what kind of country music Alan Jackson is all about. The lanky, blonde-maned singer strode out before the faithful to the strains of "Gone Country."

The hit single from 1994 was a decided poke at those Johnny-come-latelys who decided country was their bag, willing to try anything to make a go of it.

Not the dyed-in-the-wool country singer from Newman, Ga.

Nope. Jackson always has been the real deal. If you're looking for a guy who races all around the stage, is full of gimmicks and screams and good time, ear candy music, then Alan Jackson is not your brand of country.

Jackson's strengths are his strong, sonorous voice. He doesn't need to over-emote or oversing ever. He tends to sing the songs in his easygoing style. It's no problem for Jackson to go easily from what would be a schmaltzy tune in the hands of many other singers, "Livin' On Love" and "Here in the Real World" to uptempo honky tonker like "Mercury Blues" and its musical cousin "Chattachoochee" and the humorous "I Don't Even Know Your Name."

But perhaps Jackson's greatest strength is his songwriting ability. He doesn't write simple been there done that love songs. Instead, he gets to the heart of feelings. That perhaps was never more evident than his 9/11 song, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." The huge hit was not some patriotic, knee-jerk reaction to the terror, but, instead, underscored the need for love and family.

He also writes about the simple life he grew up with in small town America and slices of life like "Where I Come From."

Fortunately, not everything is so serious with Jackson. Not only does he have an affinity for humor ("www.memory") but he also did so through projections on video screens behind him. Most of the time, the images came directly from his song videos, which he has done in the past. The best received song among the uptempo songs was his current smash with Jimmy Buffett, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."

Jackson has a very strong backing band, The Strayhorns, with a couple of fiddles thrown in, pedal steel and mandolin at times spicing the music. At other shows, Jackson has tended to let the band play out more.

About the lone criticism of Jackson was at 90 minutes, the show was on the short side. Sure, he played a whole lot of hits, but what about a few he didn't play, like the great social comment song, "Little Man" or "Right on the Money," "Home" or "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow."

And remember that Jackson's latest includes E*GHT songs that he liked, but never were hits. Why not play any of them?

Of course, it's a good thing when the main complaint is that a show wasn't long enough from a guy who keeps it country.