Angels and Alcohol
Alan Jackson is known as reliably country and not one to chase trends, but rather, somebody who holds steady as a standard-bearer for modern traditional country music. Even so, in an effort not to become stagnant, he has kept us intrigued by also taking some detours into other genres along the way, which have included adult contemporary, bluegrass, orchestral Christmas and two gospel albums.
With these career detours notwithstanding, we still reflexively know that when he announces that he’s releasing a country album, it’s guaranteed to be exactly that, which is what we get with Angels and Alcohol.
Often a sentimentalist without being cloying, Jackson starts with the moving “You Can Always Come Home.” Fueled by his daughters leaving the nest and inspired by his father’s assurance that “you can always come home,” back when he was the one leaving the nest, he sings, “No matter how right or wrong you’ve gone, you can always come home.”
Similarly, ” I Leave the Light On” is from the perspective of a man who keeps his heart open to memories of the woman that he’s lost, so that they can come back to him whenever they want to. While he knows that she has moved on, he promises, “I’ll leave the light on for your memory, so it will be easy to come back to me.”
On one of the best tracks of the album, Jackson warns that trying to maintain a good relationship with alcohol is hazardous. You can’t mix angels and alcohol,” he observes in the country weeper. “I don’t think God meant for them to get along.”
The other four songs written by Jackson- the honky-tonkin’ “You Never Know,” the silly “Jim And Jack And Hank,” the breezy though instructive “Flaws,” and the escapist “Mexico, Tequila And Me”- are much more playful. But even with their more frivolous nature, the instrumentation and melodies are satisfying earworms.
Of the three songs that Jackson did not write, the strongest is “Gone Before You Met Me,” written by Michael Heeney and Michael White. With a sweet conclusion, the narrator realizes that the reality of being committed is better than his dream of being carefree. The Wrights composition, “The One Your Waiting On”, and the Greg Becker/Troy Jones penned “When God Paints” nicely round out the rest of the album, with the latter being a song of sincere gratitude.
While Angels and Alcohol only has ten songs, none of the songs are filler, which makes the album feel as full as the longer albums of his peers. Among those ten songs, Jackson wrote seven of them on his own, and the three songs written by others still fit very comfortably within his narrative voice. Moreover, 26 years into his incredible career, Jackson’s new album is decidedly his best specifically country album in at least a decade.
Recommended Tracks: “You Can Always Come Home,” “Angels and Alcohol,” “Gone Before You Met Me”