Where Have You Gone
EMI Records Nashville
Alan Jackson’s new record stays true to his traditional, country roots and yet it’s his most personal collection of songs to date. It begins with Where Have You Gone in which Jackson begs the question where has country music gone? It is set to the traditional arrangement of a softly strummed acoustic guitar and fiddle. The ballad sets us up for what we can expect throughout the rest of the album. The harmonies in the chorus help the melody to take off whereas the sort of call and response between the vocals and pedal steel are captivating. Family, just like in traditional country songs, is at the heart of the record. The nostalgic You’ll Always Be My Baby written for one of Jackson’s daughter’s weddings reminisce’s on the past, the different milestones in his daughters life before bursting into this chorus which declares ‘You’ll always be my baby, no matter where you are’. It’d be a perfect father, daughter dance as though the lyrics are so detailed it’s also very relatable. I Do was also written for another of Jackson’s daughter’s weddings, it’s another emotive song that demonstrates Jackson’s devotion to his family. Similarly, Jackson captures the tenderness and love for a much sadder family event – his Mama’s funeral. Where Her Heart Has Always Been features an old recording of his mum reading from the bible as the ballad begins to play. The heartbreak Jackson must have felt is palpable but Jackson transforms the sad event into a positive interpretation as he talks about faith with beautiful descriptive lyrics such as ‘I could hear the roses sing, a bluebird softly claps its wings’. There are plenty of toasts to alcohol on the record too, which is what you’d expect on a good country record, including Beer:10 and Way Down In My Whiskey. The stand out of the drinking songs is actually a love song in waltz time. In, I Was Tequila, Jackson compares himself and his lost lover to various things such as blue jeans and red roses before the pay off line hits with ‘I was Tequila and she was champagne’. The record from start to finish is the embodiment of real country music as Jackson sticks to traditional arrangements and instrumentation and tells stories of family and faith with the most powerful lyrics.