We are pleased to announce that Alan Jackson will be this month’s Spotlight Artist. Alan is probably second only to George Strait among modern artists in terms of the consistency of his career. He was born in Newnan, Georgia on 17 October 1958. His first break came when wife Denise met Glen Campbell, who gave Alan a songwriting contract at his publishing company in 1986. A late starter by today’s standards, he was over 30 when he finally signed his record deal with the newly formed Arista in 1989. He has remained with the label ever since, a loyalty which has repaid both artist and label handsomely.
He has released 13 studio albums to date, eleven of which have sold platinum or better, including a set of classic covers and a low-key religious album not originally intended for commercial release. Even as record sales have fallen across the board in recent years, Alan’s most recent albums have still been certified gold. He has also released a joint live album with George Strait and Jimmy Buffett, and two big-selling Christmas releases. Overall he has sold over 50 million records. Radio loves Alan too; he has scored 25 #1s on Billboard over the past 20 years, with most of his other singles hitting the top ten.
His career was launched at the height of the neotraditional revival of the late 1980s, and Alan has maintained a solid rooting in real country music even as fashions have changed. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t shown a willingness to try new things occasionally, most notably when he recruited Alison Krauss to produce Like Red On A Rose in 2006. He has also been prepared to defy convention when he feels strongly enough, as when he teamed up with Strait to sing ‘Murder On Music Row’ (an indictment of the industry’s move towards pop and rock influences and away from the music’s roots) live on the ACM Awards show – in the presence of most of those responsible for that shift. Another potentially controversial moment came at the CMA Awards when the great George Jones had been denied the time to sing the whole of his last hit ‘Choices’, nominated for Best Single (and later to win a Grammy). Alan broke into his own performance slot to sing the chorus from ‘Choices’ – and was rewarded with a standing ovation. He is someone who exudes authenticity and honesty in his music. His nice-guy image was temporarily stained when he was temporarily separated from wife Denise in 1998, but the couple reconciled.
Alan is also a fine, and at times an outstanding, songwriter, who has written much of his material, including a number of songs which stand as modern country classics, starting with ‘Wanted’ on his debut. His place in country music history would be assured based on the many high points of his career, but his finest moment came with his musical response to 9/11, ‘Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)?’ First performed live on the CMA Awards show, this crystallized the national mood in a way few songs have ever been able to do. He has also never been reluctant to pay tribute to the artists who have inspired him, and a cover of the late Vern Gosdin’s ‘Til The End’, recorded as a duet with Lee Ann Womack, is one of the most anticipated cuts on his upcoming new album.
Alan is a popular live performer, and kicks off a new tour next month, supported by Josh Turner and Chris Young, two younger artists in the traditional vein.
He has been well recognised by his peers over the years, winning a string of CMA and ACM awards, starting with winning the ACM’s Best New Male Vocalist in 1990. He is a three-time winner of the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year, in 1995, 2002 and 2003. The full list of his accolades can be found on his website.
Alan’s debut album for Arista Here In The Real World (which I reviewed last year as part of our look back at the Class of ’89), propelled him to stardom in 1990. New album Freight Train is due at the end of the month, and lead single ‘It’s Just That Way’ is currently working its way up the chart. We hope to explore some of the highlights of Alan’s career with you this month.