Alan Jackson recently announced his upcoming 21-song album Where Have You Gone to be released on May 14th after a nearly six year delay in new music. Over that period, many of Alan Jackson’s fans were wondering why the usually prolific and well-ordered country star was taking so long for his next project. It turns out he has a good explanation.
A series of tragedies in Jackson’s life from 2017 to 2018 had the songwriter and performer not in the right frame of mind to record new music, and he “shelved” the album he was working on at the time. “I didn’t really feel like making music for a couple years,” he explains.
Alan Jackson’s mother Ruth Musick Jackson died on January 7th, 2017 at the age of 86 in her home in Newnan, Georgia. Alan was close to his mother, and she had become the subject and inspiration for numerous of his songs. She passed away in the same home converted from a tool shed where Alan was born and raised, and where his mother lived for some 70 years.
Then Alan Jackson’s son-in-law Ben Selecman died on September 12th, 2018 after suffering severe injuries during a boating accident. The Assistant District Attorney for Davidson County, Tennessee was 28-years-old, and was married to Alan’s oldest daughter Mattie the year previous.
These tragedies ultimately resulted in the inspiration for numerous new Alan Jackson songs, including “Where Her Heart Has Always Been” written for his mother’s funeral, and not one, but two songs written for the weddings of his daughters (Jackson has three of them)—“You’ll Always Be My Baby” and “I Do.”
But perhaps the biggest inspiration behind the new album Where Have You Gone is country music itself.
“Merle and George and Hank,” Jackson says succinctly. “A lot of young people liked that music when I was growing up, but it felt like nobody was making it. Somebody had to go to Nashville to make that kind of country. Randy [Travis] did and was great. But real country music is gone. It feels like 1985 again, and somebody has to bring it back. Because it’s not just 50-year-old people, it’s 20- and 25-year-olds. They have a real ear for country music, because it is real and genuine. They know the difference, and you can’t fake those things.”
There are a lot of young people making real country music. Real country music is not gone. Unfortunately though, it is gone from the radio, from CMT and television, and from the country awards shows to where you have to seek it out to find it, and the powers that be don’t make that very easy. But it’s still out there, and now we have Alan Jackson back again offering more of it up as well.
Though all we’ve been allowed to hear so far is four songs of the upcoming 21-song album, fellow country legend Loretta Lynn has apparently heard the entire thing, saying recently, “Just when I thought country music was near gone, Alan Jackson brings it back to life! What an album, he’s given us. Y’all go listen to it right now. Alan, thank you honey for keeping it country!”
Alan Jackson’s Where Have You Gone is now available for pre-order.