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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Alan Jackson's 'Freight Train' Keeps Traditional Country on the Right Track

From its opening fiddle saw through its closing steel guitar note, Alan Jackson’s new CD "Freight Train" is an affirmation that traditional country music is alive and well. And the music-buying public agrees: The CD sold 73,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number 7 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart.

A collection of beautiful ballads -- of both the broken-hearted and true love kinds -- and traditional tunes about life, fun and the working man (and woman), "Freight Train" is a nice change of pace from the pop- and rock-tinged music dominating country radio of late. I think of it as a palate cleanser between The Band Perry's "Hip to My Heart" and Jason Aldean's "Crazy Town."

"It's Just That Way," the first single, is already a top-20 hit and the gentle love song just might sweet-talk its way to the top of the charts. Aided by a cute and fanciful video, the song is as soft and warm as a first kiss and lingers like a fond memory. I can't hear it and not smile.

Jackson is a classic balladeer and the CD has some of his best. My favorite on the CD, "Every Now and Then," a beautiful and poignant tale of the love who got away but never quite left his heart.

You can finally breath life in without wondering where she's been
go to sleep at night without her on your mind.
In a second it appears, followed by familiar tears,
like a long-lost friend, every now and then.

The understated piano and mandolin with just a touch of steel guitar work perfectly to complement the subdued ache in Jackson's vocals, and the end result is touching, even haunting.

As a parent, "After 17" also touched my heart. Written by Jackson (he penned seven of the 12 tracks, and co-wrote one), it gives a parent's perspective of watching a daughter turn into a woman. Jackson is father to three daughters, and you can definitely tell this one came from his heart. Let's just hope his girls don't mind daddy sharing some of their secrets!

Lee Ann Womack, one of my favorite female vocalists, puts in an appearance in another great ballad, "Till The End," and the duet is another highlight.

The bluegrass-tinged title track stretches the "Freight Train" analogy a bit thin, and I have similar issues with "Tailights' Blue." But while both tracks are lyrically cliched, they're musically pleasing.

"That's Where I Belong" is also a bit heavy on the cliches but works well painting a picture of a happy escape to the sea. Think of it as a country version of the classic Christopher Cross tune "Sailing."

"Freight Train" will definitely please Alan Jackson fans and should be added to the CD (or download) collection of anyone who loves traditional country.

Need more Alan Jackson? Sirius XM launched Alan Jackson's Freight Train Radio Friday at noon on Sirius 61 and XM 17. The seven-day-long, commercial-free channel will feature music from Jackson, George Strait, Randy Travis, Lee Ann Womack and more. Jackson will introduce every song and share anecdotes about his life. The channel will air through next April 15 and you can sign up for a free 7-day trial at www.sirius.com.

Vicky Dobbin is senior music reviewer for Today’s Best Country Music Videos. Follow her at http://Twitter.com/vdobbin and read her country music blog at www.LoveMyCountryMusic.com.

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