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From the Country Standard Time Archives

For "real country," Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack provide the goods

The Centrum, Worcester, Mass., Feb. 8, 2001

By Jeffrey B. Remz

During her opening set, Lee Ann Womack asked the crowd if they wanted to hear "real" country music.

The singer, whose career is ever on the rise, really needed not have even asked because her pairing with Alan Jackson was a case of letting the music do the talking.

Bottom line was if you didn't answer yes to Womack's question, you should have stayed home.

In this day and age of Faith and Tim ruling the charts with little twang or country edge, hard core honky tonks, Texas swing and an emphasis on the songs, instead of some big productionw ere most welcome.

Jackson has been carrying the torch for traditional country for quite awhile. The musical son of George Jones was no different during his 85-minute set as he let the hits keep coming.

And quite a group of hits they are from the get go with the humorous (actually an understated, but key aspect of Jackson not taking himself too too seriously) "I Don't Even Know Your Nam," "Tall Tall Trees," "Livin' On Love," "Gone Crazy," a strong version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" along with fine closers to the regular set "Who's Cheatin' Who" and "Chattahoochee."

. Jackson was in fine vocal form throughout in a typical show where he did not need to bounce around the stage like some of his country brethren. His energy comes from the music.

Where others may have to rely on questionable material, that has never been the case with Jackson.

He did not have to rely on feel good material either, with a few commentary songs thrown in like "Little Man" about small town businessmen losing out to the corporate folks, a poke at high tech with his recent hit "www.memory" (a very funny video accompanied the song, one of several times Jackson employed that device) and the condemnation of flavor-of-the-mouth musicians in "Gone Country."

His long-time backing band, the Strayhorns, were in their usual fine form. Jackson lets them play, not merely replicating the songs (although he tended to stretch it out more as the evening wore on).

The lone criticisms of Jackson was his too-long medley where he wanted to cram the songs in. Heck, they're good enough to play full-length versions instead of robbing us with snippets. And at 85 minutes, the set could easily have been longer and held together quite well. A few more songs from his excellent new album, "When Somebody Loves You," also would have been welcome.

Womack is an accomplished singer, which she proved even with a cold during her 50 minutes. Like Jackson, she has a slew of good songs in addition to her career song, "I Hope You Dance."

She knows her way around a honky tonk also, serving up a Bob Wills song as well. And she did well with a cover of Paul McCartney's "Let Him In," which sounded more jazzy than country, but worked.

To her credit, Womack left the audience wanting more.

Matter of fact, so did Jackson in an evening replete with real country music.