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Alan Jackson - Drive
Album review by: Cheryl Harvey Hill 

Alan Jackson is a remarkably talented and successful entertainer who stands tall among an elite minority in country music today. Most singer/songwriters of his caliber, depth and commitment to traditional country music, perfected their talents on the hallowed stage of the Ryman and their formative years were spent hanging out across the alley at the legendary Tootsie’s with the Willie, Hank and Patsy. Ironically, Jackson wasn’t even born then so this puts the 2002 Academy of Country Music recipient of Top Male Vocalist, Singer and Song of the Year awards in a class by himself.

At a time when a majority of country music artists are being herded along the over crowded path to mediocre, pop, acquiescence; Jackson is staying true to his roots, his heritage and himself -- thank God. His latest album confirms this fact and also proves that his tried and true formula for success has it’s just rewards. Drive is the first country album to achieve a 10 week run in the Top 10 of "The Billboard 200" since June of 1999. In addition to racking up an impressive ranking on the country music charts, Jackson’s critically acclaimed Double Platinum certified album recently also became the first album since 1999 to remain In Pop's Top 10 for 10 consecutive weeks. The last album to accomplish this pop chart feat was Shania Twain’s Come On Over. Jackson is now the only male country artist to achieve this milestone with multiple albums.

Having sold 36 million albums worldwide since 1989, "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" is Jackson’s twenty-ninth career number one song. Notably, it is also his twenty-first as a songwriter; an unprecedented feat that places him at the top of ASCAP’s rarified ‘Number One Club.’ In 2001 the awards kept coming and the fans (translates to "those who purchase the CD's" - are you paying attention Nashville?) spoke loudly, and from the heart, when they honored him with six TNN and CMT Country Weekly Music Awards. Along the way he racked up his 50th Country Music Association award nomination, a stunning achievement that places him second on the all-time CMA nominations list.

The first song on Drive is "Drive (For Daddy Gene)", a self-penned classic, dedicated to his deceased father, and is one of nine songs that Jackson wrote on this CD. Accompanied by the acoustic strains of harmonica, mandolin and guitar, Jackson reminisces about his youthful attempts at learning to drive a boat and a pickup truck under the watchful eye of his dad. The lyrics are visual and nostalgic.

Since Jackson was one of the first major artists to put out an Enhanced CD, it isn't surprising that he would be in the forefront when it comes to ground breaking technology for music videos. According to Arista Nashville; the music video of this single is "an artistic and technological breakthrough resulting from the collaborative efforts of multiple creative teams." The animation in "Drive (For Daddy Gene)" is a complex process of synthesizing still and live-action photography, green screen, visual effects, virtual 3D and a host of computer programming to produce an "animated oil painting" appearance. In a present day setting, the clip segues to Jackson supervising as his real-life daughters take the wheel of their classic red Bronco. All of this speaks to the heart of Jackson’s appeal—a country superstar who remains down-to-earth in the face of all the accolades the industry can throw at him.

The second and third songs on this CD are two of my favorites. "A Little Bluer Than That", an upbeat ditty about a broken heart, and "Bring On the Night", a waltz version with the same theme, are musical perfection with their melancholy pedal steel, oscillating fiddle and gentle mandolin. This is pure, classic country that is as soothing to the soul as it is to the ears.

"Work In Progress" finds Jackson poking fun at husbands (himself) as he offers up humble explanations for his behavior and makes promises of better things to come. It is his humorous take on the popular "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" theme and the lyrics are sure to strike a chord of recognition in wives around the world.

Jackson teams up again with friend, and fellow country traditionalist, George Strait on "Designated Drinker." Their previous collaboration resulted in the CMA Award-winning hit "Murder on Music Row" but Jackson, clearly, needs no help when it comes to winning awards.

The last song (before the bonus track) on this CD, "First Love" is an energetic, toe-tappin' ditty with a surprise hook since you don't know until you hear the chorus that the "older woman" Jackson is singing about is... well, I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you.

These are just a few of the highlights of this CD. There are thirteen great songs -- something for everybody -- true country music at it's best. A definite keeper.


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