Reliable, consistent, neo-traditionalist, new traditionalist, self-penned tunes – that’s so often how Alan Jackson’s music is described. Like Red On A Rose stands out from the pack of Jackson albums then as a unique and beautiful album of ballads and love songs with a wonderful mix of thoughtful, tender and reflective interpretations of songs by several writers.
After working with Keith Stegall as the producer on all of his previous albums, Jackson opted to try something different. He approached Alison Krauss about possibly making a bluegrass album. Instead, Krauss’s song selection and production resulted in an album that lets Jackson’s vocal talent and skill come to the fore in a more acoustic style. This album truly features Alan’s warm, intimate, subtle and honest voice – arguably one of the best in country music. One phrase from ‘The Firefly’s Song’ sums up the overall production well: Sometimes less is more.
Like Red On A Rose was released in September of 2006, following Jackson’s Gospel album, Precious Memories. Both albums were a departure from his reliable and a bit predictable style, though not a departure from Jackson’s personal history. He grew up singing Gospel in church, and Jackson’s interpretation of the introspective songs on Rose give you the sense that he’s lived their stories in one way or another personally.
The overall mood of the album calls for a glass of your favorite full-bodied beverage and a quiet evening of reflecting on the richness of deep love, both kept and lost, and the blessings of life in general from the maturity of having lived a good portion of it already — thus, the album cover. But though the mood is fairly consistent throughout the album, the musical styles are somewhat varied.
‘Anywhere On Earth You Are’ sets the tone with a smokey road-weary ballad followed by the aptly titled and bluesy ‘Good Imitation Of The Blues’. Jimmy Holiday’s ‘Don’t Change On Me’ is a gospel-flavored number complete with choir-sounding back-up and gospel organ in the mix. John Pennell’s country waltz ballad ‘As Lovely As You’ has some lovely acoustic guitar.
Having fallen in love with this album from start to finish, it’s hard for me to pick just one favorite track. I’d have to pick several. On the list would be Sidney Cox’s acoustic love song ‘Had It Not Been You’, featuring some beautiful guitar and dobro work, which sounds almost autobiographical with lyrics like
The girls wouldn’t look anything like they do
Can’t imagine my life without dresses and shoes
I’d never take in a sunset
From the front porch swing
Or make any sense of the pleasure love brings
I’d been alone for sure, had it not been for you
Another favorite is ‘The Firefly’s Song,’ one of 4 songs on the album written or co-written by Robert Lee Castleman. From the great acoustic guitar-picking intro to the wonderful rhythmic lyrics and tight harmonies, it’s just a great song.
You used to talk and I used to not
I don’t listen but I hear a lot
Don’t believe for a second that
my key won’t fit your door
I don’t want you like I used to
This ol’ man wants you more
Hey hidey-ho…I used to go where the devil wouldn’t go
where the river runs still and the water don’t flow
Heaven couldn’t stop me then
Hey hidey-hi…good Lord willin’
and the crick don’t rise
Life goes by like the fireflies
when the devil sits with a grin
Herb Pedersen’s ‘Wait A Minute’ would make the list – again, great lyrics and light production with a wonderful interpretation by Jackson.
But if I had to pick a top favorite, I think it would have to be the album’s closer, ‘Bluebird’ by Leon Russell. It features great jazzy harmonica intertwined with Jackson’s subtle vocals on that age-old country theme of lost love.
I’m lost in the night
The icy wind is howling out your name
And desolation wanes
Like a fog
The fires rolling in
In the wind
I’m out in the rain
The moon has gone behind the clouds again
And I can’t stand to live
Cause my bluebird went away
Like Red On A Rose debuted at #1 on the Top Country Albums chart (his 11th #1 country album) and #4 on the Billboard 200. Certified Gold in 2007, there were only two singles released from it. The title track, which peaked at #15 (not helped by the music video in my opinion) and the remake of his 1998 self-penned song ‘A Woman’s Love’ which scored a #5 spot on the charts. It was the only song on the album written by Jackson himself.
This is definitely an album to have in your Jackson collection as one of his most unique, and a great example of the depth of his interpretive talent as a vocalist.
Like Red On a Rose is widely available, including at amazon.