Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alan Jackson, "Long Way to Go"

Songwriter:  Alan Jackson

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the single release that will go down in history in Alan Jackson's career as the "bug in my margarita" song.

The record sounds great.  It has all the fiddle and steel that you would expect to hear on an Alan Jackson record.  We hear a few horns near the end of the track that add a nice garnish without overwhelming it or making it sound cheesy.

Then he has to go and sour an otherwise pleasant listening experience with one stupid line.  Ever heard one of those songs that you mostly liked, but that had just one line that just about ruined the whole thing for you?  This is one of those songs.  "There's a bug in my margarita."  Seriously?  You're going to build an entire song around that line, and repeat the line over and over again?

Alan Jackson is in something of a unique position among Nashville artists.  He can release country singles that actually sound country, and that have a cool vintage nineties-style vibe, while still securing radio airplay.  If a new fledgling artist releases such a track, it's most likely he's going to have a hard time getting it played on the radio.  But when an artist of Alan Jackson's stature is in a position to be able to get good country-souding music heard on the radio, the last thing he needs is to start spoiling it with dumb lyrics.

Granted, Alan has built an outstanding career as a self-proclaimed "singer of simple songs."  With his laid-back 'aw shucks' country boy charm, he can sometimes get away with simple songs that other artists couldn't pull off quite as easily.  But there's a fine line between a song that's simple, and a song that's stale, and there are lyrics in "Long Way to Go" that come close to falling on the wrong side.  I'll be generous enough to give Alan an extra point for the good-time groove he has going with "Long Way to Go," and I'll probably find myself enjoying the song as long as it catches me in the right mood.  But with most of Alan's recent single releases being subpar cuts like "I Still Like Bologna" and "It's Just That Way," as well as a lackluster Johnny Cash cover, the fact is that we're still way overdue for another "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)