Alan Jackson

When Somebody Loves You

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Before talking about what a fine country album When Somebody Loves You is, there's a disclaimer: If you're a woman, or somebody who wants a great deal of change or evolution in an artist's music, this set won't do much for you. Here are 13 songs about love and being a blue-collar guy who doesn't mind being a redneck, digs the old hillbilly sounds, and hates sushi. Alan Jackson's been at these anthems for an entire career. He's also had the same producer for the whole run. But there has been some change. The truth of the matter is, as close to the line as Jackson has kept his brand of country, it's actually become more so. There are less and less canned sounds on every record, whether it's on a killer love song like the title track with its Spanish guitar overtones that are reminiscent of Marty Robbins or the slamming honky tonk of "The Thrill Is Back" with the rawest sounding fiddle on a country record in a decade. And on the dumbly titled "WWW.Memory," Jackson gets down into a place where the sad lyric fits the tinkling of the upright piano (it's probably synthesized but doesn't feel like it). "Where I Come From" is another redneck anthem, but it rocks a little harder with a ZZ Top-styled guitar. The point is simple: If you like guitars, banjos, pedal steels, and songs about simple things -- "I Still Love You" is one of those songs and one of the best Jackson's ever recorded -- then When Somebody Loves You is your kind of record. This is trad honky tonk country in a country-pop age. Jackson gets a vote not only for holding on to the tradition but because he is able to articulate its heart in a heartless age. As long as Jackson, Montgomery Gentry, and George Strait are hanging in there on the male side of things, country music won't disappear into the ether of pop music schlock.

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