To get ready for Friday’s Pinnacle Bank Arena concert, I pulled up the Amazon Music “Rediscover Alan Jackson” playlist Monday night and got 52 songs chosen by the streaming service’s “music experts.”
That would be three hours of music — far more than can be played at any concert by any artist outside of Bruce Springsteen, and a total that appeared astounding, until the songs started to play.
They just kept coming — in rapid-fire fashion.
“Chattahoochee” into “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” into “Don’t Rock The Jukebox.” “She’s Got The Rhythm I (And I Got The Blues)” into “Summertime Blues” into “Little Man” “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere” into “Dallas” into “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning).”
The Amazon “experts” praise Jackson for his mix of “traditional honky-tonk and contemporary country,” which, to me, is splitting hairs too finely to be useful.
For the best of country of years past have always blended “contemporary” sounds with honky-tonk roots — whether the string-saturated countrypolitan stylings of the ’60s or Garth Brooks’ mix of country with rock and singer-songwriter influences.
For Jackson, that blend meant putting the twang to Eddie Cochran’s rock’ n’ roll classic, delivering “sweet country music” bathed in fiddle and pedal steel, singing hymns right out of church and detailing the life of a singer “livin’ that honky-tonk dream.”
For decades, I’d maintained that if an alien came down looking to find country music, I’d point it toward Merle Haggard.
After Hag passed six years ago, I transferred that “real country music” title to Jackson — something he drove home in his first arena appearance about six months after we lost Merle.
Leading Off: Bat signal shines on new bar in Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket
Here’s part of what I wrote about Jackson filling Haggard’s shoes after that concert, one of the shows ever at the arena:
“Like Haggard, Jackson writes the vast majority of his songs — and he’s had so many hits that as he told stories of his early career while sitting on a stool, he sang just a verse of the song he was talking about or, in the case of ‘Wanted’ only the chorus.
“And like Hag and The Strangers, Jackson’s got a killer veteran band, The Strayhorns, who fill the stage with three guitars, bass, drums, piano, fiddle and pedal steel — a true country ensemble.
“Like (George) Jones, Jackson is a great, great singer with a worn, expressive Georgia-tinged baritone … he’s still got all of his voice, hitting every note — even the highest ones — and owning the songs. Whether he’s celebrating country life — he was singing about pickups, country roads and having a drink when the bros were in diapers — or getting personal on ‘Drive (Daddy’s Gone).’”
All that, I’m sure, will hold true Friday night when Jackson brings his “Last Call: One More For The Road Tour” to the arena.
The tour gets its name for a reason. It will probably be Jackson’s last — and not some kind of a fake out “retirement” tour ala KISS, The Who, Cher, Motley Crue, all of whom, like the Energizer bunny have kept going and going and going.
Last year, Jackson announced that he has a rare nerve disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth that affects muscle function, movement and balance.
“I have this neuropathy and neurological disease,” he said on “Today.” “It’s genetic that I inherited from my daddy…There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious. And I know I’m stumbling around on stage. And now I’m having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable.”
He didn’t want to, but Jackson has pondered calling it quits.
“I’ve always admired my heroes like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Charley Pride, who just played as much as they wanted to, as long as they could,” Jackson said in a statement. “I’ve always thought I’d like to do that, and I’d like to as long as my health will allow. I’ll try to do as much as I can, but if I’m comin’ your way, come see me.”
So Friday night is Nebraska’s last best chance to see and hear Jackson, the man who is country music — just as Haggard and Jones were before him.
Ice Cube bringing his classic West Coast hip-hop to arena
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or [email protected] On Twitter @KentWolgamott