My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Alan Jackson – ‘Like Red On A Rose’

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

CHORUS
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
Another day
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.

Grade: A

Like Red On a Rose is widely available, including at amazon.

10 responses to “Album Review: Alan Jackson – ‘Like Red On A Rose’

  1. Paul W Dennis March 25, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I would give the album a C+

    I liked all of the songs individually but the album was much less than the sum of its parts as the album seemed to be taken at a single tempo (yes there was a slight variation, but the album could really have used some more uptempo material. I took some of the songs and used them in mixes, but after the first three or four times, no longer listen to this CD straight through

  2. Razor X March 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I wish they had stuck with the original plan and recorded a bluegrass album. I had the same thoughts as Paul — that it doesn’t have enough variety in tempo, which is typical of Alison Krauss anyway. There are a few songs that I like, but overall I find this to be a very dull album. I only got it about a month ago with my eMusic credits and I wish I’d gotten something else instead.

  3. Occasional Hope March 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    It’s all very tasteful but somehow incredibly dull.

  4. Leeann Ward March 25, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I should add that this is a great review that makes me want to give this album yet another try.

  5. Meg March 25, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Actually, the similar tempo throughout the album is something I found appealing on a certain level — relaxing, romantic. Would make a great date album – especially on date night with the long love of your life, slow dancing, etc…. 🙂

    The variety came in the styles rather than tempo, and in the great lyrics throughout.

    Can’t believe I forgot to mention that another favorite is Castleman’s ‘Where Do I Go From Here (A Trucker’s Song)’. Has this brilliant intro with the old folk song ‘O Suzannah’ which is also intertwined between verses.

    Hope you’ll give it another shot Leeann!

  6. PiterJankovich March 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

    • Meg April 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks Piter. Glad you enjoy the blog! I think most of the writers on MKOC would consider it a labor of love – they just love country music! Enjoy.

  7. Ron Jeka November 9, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I think the video of song Like Red on a Rose is awesome!

  8. Cynthia August 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Just love the album. It shows Alan’s tender side and sounds so personal. A lot of the songs are different style then we are used to hearing from Alan. He’s so versatile in styles and now we get to hear another side. There isn’t anything he can sing that doesn’t have success written on the song/album.
    Keep on keeping on, Alan, and my God bless you and your family💕

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