Like Red on a Rose

With 2004’s What I Do, honky-tonk hero Alan Jackson seemed to be coasting a bit. No one could say that about this dramatic departure, Like Red on a Rose, a startlingly good all-ballads set that’s downright bold in its gentility and his best yet. Producer Alison Krauss surrounds Jackson’s baritone with plenty of slide guitar and piano, casting him as the lonely troubadour searching for a home front. It’s almost in a 1970s folk-rock singer-songwriter tradition — closer to Gordon Lightfoot than George Jones. With so many others in country overplaying the redneck card right now, Jackson’s stately elegance is nearly heroic.

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