Alan Jackson’s hot streak continued into 1996 with the release of his sixth studio album. 1994’s Who I Am had sold four times platinum, and 1995’s Greatest Hits Collection had sold six times platinum and produced two more number one hits, as well as a top five. With Keith Stegall once again in the producer’s chair, Everything I Love was released on October 29, 1996. It was preceded by the lead-off single “Little Bitty”, a semi-novelty tune written by the legendary Tom T. Hall. Reminiscent of the type of song that George Jones used to do fairly regularly early on his career, “Little Bitty” became Jackson’s fourteenth #1 hit in December 1996.
Things took a more serious turn when the title track was released as the album’s second single in late 1996. “Everything I Love” is a beautiful mid-tempo ballad written by Harley Allen and Carson Chamberlain, and it is one of the finest performances of Jackson’s career. The theme is one to which most of us can relate — namely, the old adage that everything good in life is dangerous, illegal or fattening. The protagonist laments, “Everything I love is killing me — cigarettes, Jack Daniels and caffeine,” before adding his soon-to-be former lover to the list of dangerous vices. Surprisingly, the song only reached #9 in Billboard.
“Who’s Cheatin’ Who”, the album’s third single, was a bit of a surprise since Alan Jackson seemed like an unlikely candidate to cover a Charly McClain song. However, it worked surprisingly well for him. Unlike McClain’s rendition (which can be heard here), Jackson’s version has the fiddle front and center, which gives the song a more traditional feel. But while the original version reached the top of charts in 1981, Jackson’s cover peaked at a still-respectable #2.
“There Goes” is a more traditional, and more typical, Alan Jackson song. An original Jackson composition, the tune became the album’s fourth single and returned Jackson to the #1 spot in June of 1997. “Between The Devil and Me” is another Harley Allen and Carson Chamberlain composition. It was a bit of a departure for Alan, but the more contemporary arrangement combined with the more traditional harmonies is quite effective. I was surprised when this song was selected as the fifth single, because it’s relatively rare for a song that I like this much to be slated for single release. Like “Who’s Cheatin’ Who”, “The Devil and Me” just missed the top spot in Billboard, stalling at #2.
“A House With No Curtains” is noteworthy if only because it is the only instance in Jackson’s career in which a sixth single was released from an album. Originally released as the B-side of “There Goes”, ” A House With No Curtains” also shares the dubious honor of being the first Alan Jackson single that failed to reach the Top 10 since 1989’s “Blue Blooded Woman,” stalling at #18. It was likely released to maintain Alan’s presence at radio while he worked on the next album, and probably received little promotional push from the label. Written by Alan with Jim McBride, this song’s melody reminds me a lot of the Merle Haggard-Leona Williams composition “Shopping For Dresses”, although it has a much stronger lyric. (“Shopping For Dresses” was recorded by Randy Travis and Loretta Lynn in 1990). I like the song, but I probably would have selected “Buicks To The Moon,” a somewhat light-hearted declaration of eternal love, also written by Jackson and McBride. This one is somewhat similar to Randy Travis’ “I Won’t Need You Anymore” from 1987.
Along with the title track, “Walk On The Rocks” is the most serious song on the album. It tells the story of a convict who warns his visiting son:
… Life’s like a river,
And the water is deep.
Cross it with care,
Or you’ll end up like me.
Let my mistakes be your stepping stones,
and walk on the rocks that I stumbled on.
Now, this is what country music is all about. Download this track if you don’t own the album.
“Walk On the Rocks” is followed, appropriately, by the much lighter, Dixieland jazz number “Must’ve Had A Ball”, another Jackson composition, and then in closing the album, Jackson is a long-suffering husband or boyfriend, who finally turns the tables on a woman who’s taken him for granted for too long in the uptempo “It’s Time You Learned About Good-Bye.”
Everything I Love reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. It sold slightly less well than its two predecessors, earning triple platinum certification. It is a surprisingly strong collection of songs, and in listening to it, one wonders why on earth nobody in Nashville seems capable of putting out an album this good today.
It is readily available from Amazon and iTunes and is highly recommended.