Alan Jackson 'Thirty Miles West' - Humphead/ACR

The good news, and maybe also the bad news for some, is that little has changed with Alan Jackson's move from Arista to EMI and his own ACR imprint. There is none of the experimentation of his Alison Krauss produced album (Like Red On A Rose). Sticking with a formula has never effected George Strait's sales and the continuity will help the his fans to know they're safe in the familiar territory. His longtime producer Keith Stegall is again at the helm of a group of A-list session players who produce a solid county sound. Visually as well there was talk of the trademark 'tache going but it's still very much in evidence on the cover. So business as usual. The thirteen songs are a mix of 6 Jackson solo-written originals with some outside song choices written by Chris Stapleton, Guy Clark, Shawn Camp, Al Anderson and his nephew Adam Wright in various combinations with others or together. The opening song is the wishful Gonna Come Back As A Country Song, a mid-tempo novelty that opens the album with a sense of purpose and fun. That's followed by the wistful break-up song You Go Your Way. A theme that is repeated in others songs like So You Don't Have To Love Me Anymore - the strong vocal from Jackson reminds just how good a country singer he is. Everything But The Wings is a love song, a ballad with strong steel input. Talk Is Cheap is a motivational song about getting on and doing the things that are often just talked about. You get the picture, classic country fare, that is punctuated by diversions like the rockin' Dixie Highway which features Zac Brown and uses a subtle interpolation of Sweet Home Alabama. It features prominent piano and fiddle breaks. A twist on the opening song can be found in the self explanatory Her Life's A Song. The album closes with two strong performances on the twangy, lively Life Keeps Bringin' Me Down, the sound a contrast to the message in the title. The final song, When I Saw You Leaving, is a heart tugging emotion filled song that Jackson wrote in the wake of his wife's battle with cancer that will mean so much to many. A simple and personal reaction to events over which he has little control and on a par, if a more personal and inward looking song, with Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning). In a world that keeps turning and where country music turns into pop (all too often) it is heartening to have someone who still believes and makes country music in the heart of Music Row.