My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Alan Jackson – ‘Thirty Miles West’

Listening to a new Alan Jackson album is much like watching a John Wayne movie; one pretty much knows what to expect and there are very seldom any big surprises, yet when it’s over, one usually feels satisfied and fully entertained. His latest effort, Thirty Miles West, is his first release on his own imprint, through a new arrangement with EMI Nashville. Despite the label change, the album’s content is still very much in the same vein as most of his Arista albums. Longtime collaborator Keith Stegall is once again in the producer’s chair.

Radio seems to have cooled towards Jackson lately; aside from his guest appearance on the Zac Brown Band’s #1 hit “As She’s Walking Away”, he hasn’t scored a Top 10 hit in three years, and the first of Thirty Miles West’s two advance singles, the self-penned “Long Way To Go”, failed to reach the Top 20. A catchy, fun, if somewhat unoriginal Jimmy Buffett-style summertime song, it deserved to chart higher than its #24 peak. The current single “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” currently sits at #26. It is a very nice break-up ballad written by Adam Wright and Jay Knowles, in which the male protagonist graciously offers to take the blame for the relationship’s failure.

One of my favorite tracks is the energetic bluegrass-tinged “Dixie Highway”, which features a guest appearance by Zac Brown. It’s the best of the six songs that Alan wrote for the album. At nearly seven and a half minutes, it is too long to be a single, though a heavily edited version might eventually be released to radio. I also quite “Life Keeps Bringing Me Down”, which is a real toe-tapper and not a mournful ballad as the title suggests.

The album does contain a few missteps; Alan’s compositions “Everything But The Wings” and “Look Her In The Eyes and Lie” aren’t quite up to his usual standard. Likewise, “She Don’t Get High” — which despite its title isn’t about a recovering addict — is a bit pedestrian; however, it is just middle-of-the-road enough that it might have a shot at being well received at radio.

There are no great artistic stretches here; Jackson remains fully within his comfort zone for the entire album. However, it is a solid and entertaining album that holds its own against Alan’s impressive back catalog. Sometimes that’s all that the listener wants, especially in an era in which country music is increasingly overwhelmed by over-the-top pop and rock. It remains to be seen if Thirty Miles West can revive Alan’s radio career, but even if it does not, it is one of this year’s better efforts and is worth buying.

Grade: B+

3 responses to “Album Review: Alan Jackson – ‘Thirty Miles West’

  1. Ben Foster June 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I like this album in general, but I can’t say I’m as excited about it as I had hoped to be. There are few songs in which the lyrics just seem to leave me cold, particularly “Everything But the Wings, (meh)” and “Long Way to Go” (I hate the “bug in my margarita” bit), plus the iPod reference in “Her Life’s a Song” tends to jar me for some reason. “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore” however, is a strong contender for being my favorite single of 2012. Some of the songs may grow on me with subsequent listens, however.

  2. R. S. Crabb June 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Funny thing about this album is that even though A.J. is a great songwriter is that the better songs were written by other folk. After breaking up with somebody I can identify with So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore and You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Crazy. 30 Miles West is what we expect from Alan, straight ahead country with plenty of Fiddle to go around. I’d give it a B plus too.

  3. rodpatrick June 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Funny, I’m an Indie folk fan but hearing this LP has made me an instant Alan Jackson fanatic. I was skeptical of “As She’s Walking Away” but this AJ latest made me a true believer of AJ as an artist in general. I give the album A+.

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