Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #66 Nov-Dec 2006

Alan Jackson

Like Red On A Rose (Arista)

In nearly seventeen years since his debut, Alan Jackson’s musical integrity has remained unswerving. He’s maintained, even enhanced his no-frills modern traditionalism while evolving into a world-class songwriter whose work rarely needs enhancement from the usual retinue of Music Row hack “collaborators.” His courageous refusal to flow with trends, and in fact his willingness to buck them (remember “Murder On Music Row” with George Strait?), further enhanced that stature.

So after nearly fifteen years, his desire to step out of character and experiment is eminently understandable. The magnitude of his success (31 #1 singles, fourteen platinum albums) leaves him with ample latitude for risk-taking. To that end, he turned to a producer-artist with a starkly contrasting style and vision — Alison Krauss — for what was originally conceived as a bluegrass album.

Commenting on the album that resulted, Jackson admits “there’s not a bit of bluegrass on it.” That would be fine if the end result succeeded. It does not.

Jackson’s albums have reflected his consistent ability to convey a broad spectrum of moods and emotions: wry, energetic humor, rocking and partying, knowing storytelling, longing, contrition and sorrow all swaddled in simple, heartland eloquence. While Krauss’ bluegrass chops remain intact, she came to stardom with a highly successful yet soulless adult pop style wrapped in a cocoon of unrelenting melancholy. Such navel-gazing ballads score big with Bluebird Cafe types or dilettantes who derive their primary world view from NPR. One suspects that damn few of these folks were ever Alan Jackson fans.

He and Krauss aim to create a solemn, introspective survey of the vicissitudes of aging, a somber Bridges Of Madison County type of approach that would resonate with Krauss fans. But since one of Jackson’s core vocal strengths is his light touch, such heavy-handed cerebral fare from him rings completely false. One dour tune follows another, buried in lugubrious acoustic bombast punctuated by keyboards, like a late-night comedy sketch satirizing some self-important singer whose sad, joyous and angry songs all sound alike.

Nothing here rises above mediocrity, not the Krauss-ified rendition of Jackson’s previously recorded “A Woman’s Love” nor the minor-key “Good Imitation Of The Blues”, which, in attempting to convey indignation, comes off merely impotent. The lyrics to “As Lovely As You” overflow with shallow greeting-card banality, and closing out Herb Pedersen’s “Wait A Minute” with an entire minute of funereal solo piano was yet another arty, pretentious misstep.

The low point, however comes with four compositions by Krauss favorite Robert Lee Castleman, whose “Maybe I Should Stay Here” appeared on Jackson’s When Somebody Loves You album. These particular Castleman songs are studies in dreariness, from the title track’s stolid, empty tedium to “Where Do I Go From Here (A Trucker’s Song)”. On the latter, he incorporates Stephen Foster’s timeless “Oh! Susanna” in a manner so self-consciously precious that it borders on laughable.

I find Jackson’s courage in daring to challenge himself admirable. Nonetheless, the blame for this unsatisfying, square-peg/round-hole result rests on his shoulders. Make no mistake — I’m not advocating that he immerse himself in classic country (his cover-heavy 1999 disc Under The Influence, marred by perfunctory vocals, was a rare stumble). But a multitude of other contexts exist in which he could experiment, any of them more fruitful than simply jumping onto Krauss’ increasingly tired, bleak bandwagon. Honesty may be Jackson’s credo, but the best that can be said of Like Red On A Rose is that it was an honest, colossal train wreck.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #66 Nov-Dec 2006

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Ray LaMontagne at the Woods at Fontanel (Nashville, Tenn. – July 25, 2014)
    Ray LaMontagne writes great songs and makes great records. And that's certainly no small feat. His live shows, though, while being technically and musically superlative, really don't leave the audience with a whole lot to hang on to other than the technique and the music. There's no personal engagement on LaMontagne's part. It's as i […]
  • Freight Train Boogie Show #264 features new music from Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes
    FTB Show #264 features the new album by Old Crow Medicine Show called Remedy.  Also new music from Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes. Here's the iTunes link to subscribe to the FTB podcasts.  Here's the direct link to … […]
  • Vancouver International Folk Festival Day Two (Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC - July 19th, 2014)
    While Friday night at the Vancouver Folk Festival focuses on main stage performances, the rest of the weekend on the sprawling festival grounds of Jericho Beach is as notable for its smaller workshop performances. This was especially true this year. This particular Saturday started with the official public announcement of Joan Baez's cancellation. Perha […]
  • Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery - Man Is Born for Trouble (Album Review)
    The origin story of Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery is pivotal for an appreciation of Powell’s music. The name, inspired by the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, the first silent western committed to celluloid, evokes Powell’s affinity for history, American aestheticism, and art that has passed through generations and endured technological revol […]
  • By the Time You Read This, It'll Be Over: A Pre-Newport Ramble
    Missing the first night -- likely the best of the three, given my taste and interest -- is sort of a bummer. But, on the other hand there's still two more days and nights to wander around the festival site, to hopefully discover a new act or the reinvention of something old. And, to be completely honest, the music and performances will run second to jus […]
  • Well Crafted, The “Not To Be Missed” Music Festival of 2014
    Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill located in pristine Harrodsburg, Kentucky plays host to what is shaping up to be the best Americana music festival of 2014.  Well Crafted, August 8-9 2014, couples some of the best musical talent in our beloved scene with the fine frothy libations of Kentucky’s local Craft Beer creators.  Shaker Steps Productions’ Derek Feldma […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter