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Pop Music Review

Alan Jackson Gets Down to Country's Nitty-Gritty


In a country universe that has slouched toward slick pop, Alan Jackson finds himself an exemplar of the nitty-gritty. And he likes to make a big stink about it too.

You could see evidence of his attitude everywhere you looked during Jackson's performance at the Arrowhead Pond on Saturday.

It was on the back of a concert T-shirt, whose inscription read that Jackson holds real country music "close to his heart," and it was present at the start of his set, when a brief video showcased the pantheon of country greats to big applause from the crowd.

Considering Jackson's massive success, this outspoken disdain for much of mainstream country music is somewhat risky. After all, he, in effect, could be biting the hand that feeds him--the country radio programmers who are responsible for playing all that anonymous pop-country.

But Jackson's relationship with country's simpler virtues is complex. Despite a recording career that has seen him flirt with Nashville formula--he's covered more than a few facile, droopy ballads--Jackson for the most part kept things as foursquare and unadorned Saturday as the ironed creases in his Wranglers.

Jackson opened the show with "Gone Country," a song that stands as his mission statement. "The whole world's gone country," he sang as if it were a foregone conclusion. From there, Jackson dipped into his deep well of giant hits. The appeal of songs like "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and Jackson's cover of the George Jones favorite "Tall Tall Trees" lay in their guilelessness and corny charm.

Jackson's voice, a limber, velvet croon that bears a resemblance to George Jones, even redeemed the set's schmaltz. The evening's opening act, Clay Walker, summarizes much of what Jackson seems to be attacking, which made it an odd pairing.

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