When Alan Jackson announced a bluegrass album produced by Alison Krauss in 2006, the result was Like Red On A Rose. On it, Jackson sang not straight-ahead bluegrass, but the sorts of dark – and sometimes pretentious – Americana ballads that are Krauss’ specialty. It was a rare miss for Jackson. Instead of earning usual Platinum status, the album received only a Gold Record.
Fast forward seven years. With longtime producer Keith Stegall and Jackson’s nephew Adam Wright co-producing, Jackson now offers up straight, unadorned traditional bluegrass. The studio band behind him is A-list, built around guitarist Scott Coney, banjoist Sammy Shelor, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and Dobro player Rob Ickes.
Jackson, with typical earthy ﬁnesse, wrote eight of the 14 tunes. Three of the non-originals are especially interesting. He reprises John Anderson’s 1981 country hit “Wild And Blue” and the Dillards’ ballad “There Is A Time,” immortalized when they sang it on “The Andy Grifﬁth Show” while portraying the backwoods Darling Family. Jackson offers bluegrass creator Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” in the waltz tempo of Monroe’s 1946 original.
There was never a question Jackson could handle bluegrass, and this time, he gets it right.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s January ’14 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.