Album review: Alan Jackson's 'Freight Train'
Set aside for a moment the master mechanic’s precision and economy with which Alan Jackson assembles words and music into songs: You’ve got to admire the veteran country star for steadfastly refusing to join in the boasting so common on radio about how down-home rural and authentic he is. Instead of talking or singing about it, he quietly and effectively just does it.
“Freight Train,” the Georgia singer and songwriters’ 18th album, encompasses a dozen songs, most of which he wrote or co-wrote and that embody country music traditions of empathy for the blue collar worker (“Hard Hat and a Hammer”), illuminating self-reflection (“Every Now and Then”) and witty phrase-turning (“Taillights Blue”). Lee Ann Womack joins him for a gorgeous duet on Cathy Gosdin’s ill-fated pledge of love, “Till the End.”
The title song, written by Fred Eaglesmith, is a minor-key bluegrass road burner about the futility of trying to run away from haunting memories, and it demonstrates Jackson’s keen ear for a great song, whether it’s his or someone else’s. “That’s Where I Belong” is one of those stock country tunes lionizing a place of solace away from life’s battleground, and Jackson elevates it above the generic with the skill of his pen: “No sirens, cars or screams just quite ocean breeze/A frigate bird encircles me a thousand feet above.”
This isn’t as consistently deeply moving nor as stylistically outside-the-box as his Alison Krauss-produced 2006 collection “Like Red On a Rose,” just down-the-middle country by one of the most dependably rewarding artists that genre has to offer.
-- Randy Lewis
Three stars (out of four)