Alan Jackson is no stranger to traditional country music. For his latest release though, he decided to do things differently. His newest project blends his brand of country with elements of bluegrass. He calls it, simply, The Bluegrass Album.
The album features a mix of original songs (8 of the 14 were written by Jackson) and covers, including a version of Bill Monroe’s classic “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and the Dillards’ slightly more recent “There Is a Time.” Jackson recently talked with NPR about, among other topics, why the album was important to him, and what some of the songs mean to him personally. He also revealed the advice his parents gave him when he left his home in Georgia for Nashville all those years ago.
“I’ve been trying to make this album for 15 years or longer. I’m just a fan of the music and it’s always been closely related to country music, especially the kind that I make,” he said.
Peppered throughout the album are several well-known bluegrass classics along with more standard country hits. Jackson puts his own spin on “Blue Moon of Kentucky” with slightly less twang than Monroe’s original.
Here he is performing the song during his record release party at Nashville bluegrass club the Station Inn:
Jackson also tackles songs that aren’t strictly bluegrass, such as John Anderson’s No. 1 hit “Wild and Blue,” and he makes it his own with his familiar vocals and striking fiddle.
The album’s opening track “Long Hard Road” paints the picture of a man who has been away from home for a long time and hears the voice of his mama calling him back home.
“That was a song about thinking about all the years since I left Georgia,” Jackson said. “I think that when your parents are helping you along, you always remember things that they say and do as you’re growing up. Even when you’re as old as I am you can still think of things.”
Jackson said his parents were supportive of his move to Nashville to pursue his dream, even if they thought it was a crazy decision at the time.
“When I decided to leave and go to Nashville that was just the craziest thing anybody had ever heard of in Newnan, Georgia,” Jackson said, referring to the small town southwest of Atlanta where he grew up. “[For] someone to just pack up and go way off like that, it was like traveling to Japan or something for us. And I think they were very concerned about it, but they also have always been supportive. Daddy always told me, ‘Go up ahead and try it, and if it doesn’t work, you can always come home.’”
Alan Jackson is currently on tour in Australia. The Bluegrass Album is available now.
– Annie Reuter, Radio.com