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From the Country Standard Time Archives

AJ remains attached to country moorings

Richmond, Va. Classic Amphitheater, May 16, 1998

By Tom Netherland

RICHMOND - Unabashed and unashamed, Alan Jackson, unlike many of his so-called contemporary country counterparts, remains blessedly attached to his stone country moorings.

The bulk of his 100-minute show, such as with "Everything I Love," waltzed firmly within countryŐs traditional parameters. Steel guitar and fiddle-heavy tunes, like "There Goes" and "LivinŐ On Love," are no mere anomalies in his show; they are archetypal Alan Jackson tunes.

Equally emblematic, very little kitsch - such as fanciful dancing and preening; stage props and lasers - were to be found. There were a couple of video screens. But nowhere in evidence was the ostentatious ridiculousness all-too prevalent in todayŐs country. Spliced with live close-ups of Jackson, footage from his various videos flashed on-screen as he performed a gamut of hits such as the rambunctious "Chattahoochie." Frequent shots of JacksonŐs red boots, gently tapping out a rhythm, such as on the tongue-in-cheek "Gone Country," further emphasized the showŐs laid back appeal.

The lanky GeorgianŐs songwriting, frequently personal missives that many can readily equate with, proves to be his most enduring talent. Prefacing his performance of the deeply affecting autobiographical "Home" by saying: "I wrote it for my mom for MotherŐs Day," Jackson spoke for many in attendance via the modern day classic. Its profound message of love and appreciation, purveyed with unadulterated authenticity and sentimentality that never crosses into the dreaded mire of sappiness, proved to be the showŐs highlight.

Midway through his generous 26-song set before a near capacity crowd, Jackson gathered in a semi-circle with his quite capable seven-man band, The Strayhorns, for an acoustic jaunt through a selection of familiar ("Dallas," "Wanted," "Someday," etc.) tunes, self-written songs recorded by Faith Hill ("I CanŐt Do That Anymore") and Clay Walker ("If I Could Make A Living"), and a bluegrass rendition of The Eagles'"Seven Bridges Road."

Capping his performance with a jaunt through his biggest hits, "Midnight In Montgomery" and Tom T. HallŐs "Little Bitty" among them, Jackson ended with "Mercury Blues" - the last verse altered to satisfy his Ford Truck endorsements.

Jackson may not have the stage prowess of a Garth Brooks or Brooks & Dunn, but with his country-as-an-old-barn sound and aw-shucks demeanor, he doesnŐt need to be flashy. Talent speaks for itself.

Blonde and barefoot, Deana CarterŐs heated 45-minute set gave but a glimpse of her platinum-selling talent, yet by its conclusion said talent left many sweating in the aisle. After opening with "How Do I Get There From Here," Carter brought a lucky fan onstage to assist her with "Count Me In." He was jittery, every male in attendance envious, and she was flat marvelous.

Standing out in her set - big surprise - was her chart-bursting, breezy "Strawberry Wine." As she glided across the stage in a billowy black outfit, Carter may well have noticed the number of young ladies in the crowd nodding along to the tuneŐs infectious melody and eye-opening lyrics in knowing recognition. Few songs in recent memory have impacted people as it has.

Before ending with a vociferous run through "Did I Shave My Legs For This?," Carter noted that the song was "written about a relationship I was in."

In that, and indeed throughout her short litany of songs, Carter's ability to touch base with people through her personal accounts, conveyed in melodious little three-minute packages makes her all the more endearing.