Album Review: Alan Jackson – Good Time
That’s not to say the years since 2004 have been fruitless. Precious Memories, a sentimental collection of hymns, and Like Red on a Rose, a testament to his artistic vitality, were refreshing risks that established Jackson as a singer who isn’t afraid of the road less traveled.
All the same, Jackson is at his best wooing radio programmers with his patented blend of sly Southern humor and an almost-too-earnest aw-shucks attitude. Good Time, Jackson’s fifteenth solo album which reunites him with his perennial hit-making producer Keith Stegall, offers plenty of songs sure to join the long list of classics he has cut over the course of almost twenty years in Nashville.
“Good Time,” the title track and an apt opener for this sprawling disc, proves that Jackson is still capable of freewheeling froth. When the somber sets that mark Jackson’s last four years are considered, this carefree ditty becomes an exorcism–setting the pace for the rest of the album and shaking the cobwebs from Jackson’s lighthearted side.
The tone shifts to traditional material with “Small Town Southern Man,” the lead single that exhibits Jackson at full throttle. As simple and forthright as the man described in the song’s lyric, Jackson sings this down-home fare better than just about anyone else in the genre.
The rest of the album plays like a textbook tour of Jackson’s career. There are evocative ballads, cutesy novelties and plucky toe-tappers–all longtime Jackson trademarks and all entertaining despite, or because of, their inherent familiarity.
Standouts like “Long Long Way” feature tidy arrangements that tweak Jackson’s time-tested formula. “Long Long Way” is an instantly engaging splash of mountain music that should be the next track to hit the airwaves. “Listen to Your Senses” takes the bluegrass route as well, and the result is an effervescent charm.
Jackson also shines in groovier settings, like the Martina McBride duet “Never Loved Before,” a tribute to Dottie West’s peppier duets with Kenny Rogers. “Laid Back ‘n’ Low Key,” another boot-scooter, is a meditation on beach life that transcends every one of Kenny Chesney’s odes to the ocean.
As a whole, Good Time shows that Jackson’s consistent production of quality material has only been enhanced by the period of artistic growth that preceded this record’s release. If there’s one criticism worth rising, it’s that, at seventeen tracks, Good Time seems bloated alongside the trim albums country music typically produces. The album’s impact would have benefited from some judicious editing.
While this collection of self-penned songs is sturdy–there’s not a lousy tune in the bunch–there are some that fail to elevate the work as a whole. “If You Want to Make Me Happy” is a carbon copy of “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and there are more than a few ballads (“I Wish I Could Back Up,” “Right Where I Want You” and “When the Love Factor’s High”) that blend together–with one another and with Jackson’s past hits.
Too much of a good thing might be a good thing, but the oversized load keeps Good Time from being great.
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