So Leon, why are you reviewing an album from 1999? Well, I’m not quite certain this is going to be a regular thing given how much Andy already covers classic albums, but I really just felt in the slow lull of January that I should take the time to cover something different. Once the year rolls on I’ll have my nose so deep into finding a new album to review that I probably won’t have the chance to do something like this again.
Ah, alright. So what made you want to cover Alan Jackson’s album Under The Influence album? Honestly I wish I had a better answer other than, “I found the CD for it yesterday and rediscovered it” but that’s what I got.
That’s quite alright, sometimes music can do that to you. Anyway, can you tell us what this project is all about? – Well as Alan himself states in the liner notes (God I miss liner notes. I have a piece coming out on this actually), “I’ve always wanted to do this album, ever since I started making records. I didn’t really think of it as a commercial record, I thought it would be something to have in my catalog. I thought it would be something that my fans would like, to know some of the songs that inspired me. The label got excited about it, and got behind the project”.
Wow, that’s amazing, especially since it was his seventh major label project, a time when he was riding high on the charts! – Exactly, this wasn’t a side project meant to hold over fans, it was an album that spawned two top ten hits, one of which number one! It also had another song that fared poorly but we’ll be coming back to that.
Actually, that brings me to my first point – the scope of this album. Like I said, it’s not just a “covers” album, it’s an album that represents a key element of country music – holding on to the roots laid down by those before us. I know I don’t grade with consideration of genre here, and I know the whole debate about genre has erupted into one giant mess, but damn it, I can’t help but feel proud to be a country music listener when I hear this. It’s simply Alan honoring his heroes, the people that inspired him not only through tough times, but also inspired him to carry on the torch for country music. I know I keep harping on the fact but it is so essential to stress when talking about this project.
Since I have droned on long enough though, I’ll tell you some highlights. The shining example is definitely Hank Williams’ Jr. “The Blues Man” with changed lyrics to represent Alan’s third person point of view as opposed to Hank’s original first person point of view. It’s definitely the most gripping song lyrically, telling of how Hank had to live in his father’s shadow and how his life was filled with trouble until his wife came and well, took the blues away so to speak. I mean, I knew Hank for his rowdier songs like “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” and “A Country Boy Can Survive”, but I had never known he wrote something like this before.
Really, I think that speaks to another asset on this album – the selections. Again, these aren’t monster hit songs, they’re deep cuts that resonated with Alan. Hell, I could make a whole career on these. Sure, there are some well known songs like Charley Pride’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” and Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” (fun duet here if I might add), and they’re both damn great here. The big message however was, “I’m Alan Jackson, I love country music, here are some of the heroes that inspired me”.
Sounds like a good project, are there any low points or criticisms or even nitpicks you have with this? – Honestly, I’m not sure I do. There comes a point as a critic when you have to seperate the albums you personally love a lot from the albums you can acknowledge might have some flaws or things you could nitpick, but as someone who just operates on the basis of the former perspective of grading based on personal perspective, no I can’t say I have any. I mean sure, could some some stronger deep cuts have sneaked their way onto here? Sure, but for one, 1999 wasn’t all roses, there still had to be some single worthy songs, and two, they’re what Alan considers to be among his favorite songs, how can I argue with that? This record both speaks to a larger level in regards to country music as well just creates a damned good time for the listener. Sure, it’s a covers album, but again, it’s not just that.
I see, so do you have any closing thoughts? – Overall, this is one of my favorite albums of all time, Like some Alan Jackson songs like “Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song” or “Gone Country”, there’s so much going on with this than what’s just on the surface. Some outlets may think that a definition for country music doesn’t exist, and I do agree that it’s hard to define exactly, but honoring those who came before and paved the way for us is something that is undoubtedly a key part of the genre.
So the final verdict is…? – Well, over time I’ve become stingy about handing out that perfect score, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t a…..