Many slow songs (in a row) give a bit of a tiring touch
When I prepared for this review of Where Have You Gone, I again recognized how big Alan Jackson has been and still is to country music. For example, my favorite song by him is Hard Hat And a Hammer – but there are songs, which have about twenty times the YouTube views than this classic. Traditional country fans love him – and knowing that there will be a 21 track album with new songs by the music legend has simply been musically mouthwatering. Release date for this epic piece has been 14th May 2021.
Alan Jackson – About The Artist
Alan Eugene Jackson was born on 17th October 1958 in Newnan, Georgia, Southwest of Atlanta. His style is typically regarded as neotraditional country, i.e. mixing traditional honky-tonk sounds with pop elements. Wikipedia states that overall he sold 75 million records. He is (of course) a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has been inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. A also got a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He got into professional music quite late in his life. He moved to Nashville at the age of 27 and released his debut album New Traditional in 1987 at the age of 29. While this debut was not successful, his second one, Here in the Real World released three years later was already a double platinum in both countries, USA and Canada. Four singles of that album made it to the Top 5 of the country charts of each country, I’d Love You All Over Again was his first song, which topped both ones (the title track has been a Canadian chart leader before).
Apart from two Christmas and two gospel albums (which have still all been Top 10 country ones), just three albums released by Alan Jackson thereafter did not make it to the top of the US Country album charts. Some of his releases, however, even made it to the Top 10 (overall charts, not limited to a genre) of countries like Australia or Norway, so that you definitely can say that Alan Jackson is one of the few country artists with global reputation. His last album release has been Angels and Alcohol in 2015. Where Have You Gone is his 21st studio album overall.
Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone – Track by Track
The album comes with a total of 21 songs and an overall playtime of 83 minutes.
1. Where Have You Gone
The album starts with a song missing a friend… Country Music. This topic will pop up again and again in the album. The title track (which has already been a single release) is a promising and rather slow starter. At least for the following twenty songs, there will (hopefully) be some sweet country music Alan Jackson enjoys
Soft steel guitar, oh how I’ve missed you Words from the heart, let me hear you again Sounds from the soul, fiddle I need you Sweet country music, where have you gone? Sweet country music, please come back home
2. Wishful Drinkin’
The second track on the album is more powerful. The song is again about missing… Just in a different context – and the consequences are rather alcoholic:
Wishful drinkin’ Wishin’ you were comin’ home Wishin’ I could take back all I didn’t do And all that I did wrong
A new song, which is one of the many really good ones on the album
3. I Can Be That Something
But I can be that whiskey in your bottle I can be that smile that takes away your tears I can be the place you just want to run to I can be that somethin’ to get you through
Stereotypes in country songs – I am writing – and complaining – a lot about them. Even Mr Jackson has quite some of them. But the song is a slow, nice listen.
4. Where The Cottonwood Grows
Slow-fast-slow-fast – let’s see how long the series continues on this album. At least, Where The Cottonwood Grows gives more chances for Bruce Rutherford, the drummer of his band The Strayhorns, to use his drumsticks. Nice fiddle and piano parts as well. Definitely a catching one.
5. Way Down In My Whiskey
We are back in a slow song again. Back with a whiskey song. It is likely a bit unfair that I point on that stereotype for the second time. The story of the song is a beauty, Alan Jackson tells it in a catching and emotional way. It just too striking that the same metaphor pops up again. To me, it is really distracting from a lovely country track and a lovely album so far.
6. Things That Matter
This track is one of the best of the whole album to me. Not because it breaks the slow-fast rhythm (another rather lower than moderate song), but the combination of the story, the melody and the vocal performance by Alan Jackson is just amazing. The track is about that you have to know the really important things in life – like caring for your little daughter.
7. Livin’ On Empty
The seventh track a nice traditional country sound with the drive of a Rock’n’Roll track. Really powerful one and a great opportunity to have some fun after having made the first third of the album.
8. You’ll Always Be My Baby
I have been that touched by You’ll Always Be My Baby when Alan Jackson recently released this song for the wedding of his daughter. Could a father be more emotional and caring than this? I love it.
9. Where Her Heart Has Always Been
Another family story, this time on the sad side of life: Alan Jackson is giving a musical memory to his mother. The song is very slow and melancholic in its melody (the fiddle solo is that striking, I feel), but there is also an optimistic message in the verses:
And now she’s dancing in the wind With her true love again Where her heart has always been
10. The Boot
After the majority of songs before have already been known to the fans, there are eleven new tracks in a row now – only the closing The Older I Get has been released before. The song is another deep one, about personal problems, alcoholism. Finally, the story ends beautifully – but I just let you listen to it.
After so many emotional moments, Back is a song for electric guitar lovers again. The song right in the middle of the album connects to the main topic of the album and the title track. The song is suprisingly long, over five minutes.
Back, I’m bringin’ country back Back where it belongs, back on track I think ol’ Hank would like it like that I got my boots, I got my hat I’m bringin’ country back
12. Write It In Red
‘Cause if you’re gonna leave me Just pack up and go There are just some things A man don’t need to know And I don’t wanna hear What’s going through your head Just take out your lipstick and write it in red
Letting people go is another main topic of the album – and Write It In Red is another breakup song. Nice song, which is again told in such a beautiful way, you just feel to be able to imagine this story bit by bit.
13. So Late So Soon
Another slow and rather deep track – but I have to admit that it is the first track on the album I don’t get into too well. Rather my fault, I guess, nice lyrics and picturesque storytelling again.
14. This Heart Of Mine
This heart of mine’s Been broken a thousand times It just don’t know how to give up
There are a lot of songs in which Alan Jackson looks back to his life and to key moments of it. Here, he is praising his own mental strength. Not my favorite track, but I for example like the piano parts in here.
15. A Man Who Never Cries
Jesus helped me through some hard times My wife and children by my side I’m not perfect by a long mile No matter how I try But I’ve been blessed enough in my life To make up for any strife If you look closely deep in my eyes You might see a few happy tears From a man who never cries
The next track is very close to This Heart Of Mine by its topic. I guess I will do the same when I am even older, looking back to my life. I would just not say that I never cried. And that Jesus helped me. But Jackson is tough guy with a Christian heart, not me.
You can’t break the chain when the love remains I will never free my heart and break the chain
I would love Chain to be more powerful and a bit quicker. The song feels so good, but pitching it a bit would raise the excellence for this one definitely. Thus, we got a fast country rocker in slow-motion mode here.
17. I Was Tequila
I was tequila and she was champagne – a lovely song about a failed love. The album is very slow in here. Where Have You Gone is still a good album – but I would love to have some mental power-up, maybe.
18. I Do
And she said, “I’ll be with you I’ll stay with you” And I’ll love you all of my days And I’ll walk with you Through life I’ll dance with you And I hope you feel the way that I do And he said, “I do”
The second song on the album, which has been written for a wedding of Alan Jackson’s daughter (I could unfortunately not find out if it is about the same daughter or if it is written for another of his three ones). Beautiful one – and a definite playlist recommendation if you need an emotional highlight at the next wedding party.
19. That’s The Way Love Goes
The song is not a word-by-word cover by Merle Haggard’s song, but very close to it. Nice tribute song.
20. Beer: 10
Beer: 10 – Whiskey: 30 – the song is back on the cheers side of life. I would have loved to have more of these kind of country rock’n’roll songs on the album. Even if I don’t like drug references in lyrics too much, it is a nice party track, indeed.
21. The Older I Get
Not sure if Alan Jackson had Where Have You Gone already in mind when he released this track in 2017 – but in fact, the album is closing with the first single of the album. Jackson states that The older I get The better I am. Happy ageing!
Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone – Spotify
Here is the album on Spotify:
Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone – My View
First of all: Where Have You Gone is a really good country album. I love the lyrics and the way they fit into the songs. Nonetheless, I struggle here and there. The album is rather slow – especially in its second half, it has a touch of becoming (too) tiring. If you like Alan Jackson’s style, you will praise the 21 songs, for sure. I would not really recommend the album to country music beginners, though.