Alan Jackson, Gretchen Wilson hope to return to top of charts with new releases

Country singer Alan Jackson performs 'Remember When' during the 31st annual American Music Awards, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Country singer Alan Jackson performs "Remember When" during the 31st annual American Music Awards, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In this book cover image released by Arista Nashville, Alan Jackson's, 'Freight Train' is shown. (AP Photo/Arista Nashville)

In this book cover image released by Arista Nashville, Alan Jackson's, "Freight Train" is shown. (AP Photo/Arista Nashville)

Country music artist Gretchen Wilson performs during the Farm Aid Concert event Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

Country music artist Gretchen Wilson performs during the Farm Aid Concert event Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

  • What: Concert: Alan Jackson
  • Where: Germain Arena
  • Cost: $39.50 - $69.50
  • Age limit: All ages

Full event details »

Concert: Alan Jackson

When: 7 p.m. April 8

Where: Germain Arena,

11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero

Admission: $39.50, $49.50 and $69.50

Information: www.germainarena.com and 948-7825

‘Freight Train’ - Alan Jackson (Arista Nashville)

On the twentieth anniversary of his debut album, Alan Jackson continues to prove consistency need not equal complacency. After a few years of challenging himself with side roads that explored traditional gospel, adult-contemporary love songs, and a wide-ranging collection of songs he wrote by himself, Jackson settles back into his comfort zone on “Freight Train.”

The 12 songs mostly find him in a laid-back groove befitting the 51-year-old’s laconic style. “Freight Train” delivers wise lyrics about love, family, loss and familiar comforts set to down-home melodies that lope along with natural ease. Everything seems so casually offhand that it’s almost easy to miss the wisdom of the lyrics and the catchiness of the melodies.

Like influences Merle Haggard or Don Williams, Jackson so wholly embodies his musical persona that, when he’s in the zone like this, there’s no strain or filter between who he is and what he sings. As universal as the songs “After 17” and “The Best Keeps Getting Better” may be, it’s also clear he’s drawing on real-life observations about his daughters and his wife.

That way of presenting a lived-in talent without any artifice is why Jackson ranks with the best singer-songwriters of his generation — and why “Freight Train” proves he’s still chugging, powerfully and gracefully, on down the line.

Check this track out: The title song, written by Fred Eaglesmith, is a hard-rolling acoustic boogie tune that gives the singer and his expert studio band a chance to fire up some locomotive power.

‘I Got Your Country Right Here’ - Gretchen Wilson (Redneck Records)

The title of Gretchen Wilson’s new album, “I Got Your Country Right Here,” issues both an angry, defiant taunt and a personal manifesto. Facing a turning point in her career, the self-described “Redneck Woman” makes it clear she’s ready to fight in order to make music her way.

Wilson exploded onto the country scene in 2004 with the self-defining No. 1 hit, “Redneck Woman.” Her instant success earned her not only the Country Music Association’s Best New Artist award, but also the CMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year — a first for a newcomer.

But her fortunes slipped from there. Record company changes and country radio’s lack of support led to Wilson leaving Columbia Records to start an independent label, Redneck Records. Her first album for her own company ratchets up everything she’s accentuated from the start: Blustery southern rock touting a hard-partying, one-of-the-boys attitude and an in-your-face allegiance to blue-collar ideals.

There’s nothing subtle, but plenty colorful, about Wilson’s stomping tunes, from “Work Hard, Play Harder” and the ready-to-rumble “Earrings Song,” both previously recorded at Columbia, to “Outlaws and Renegades” and the title song, which pay homage to the rebellious elements of country music’s past.

Wilson makes it clear she doesn’t relate with much of country music’s present, but she’s ready to bulldoze a new path for its future.

Check this track out: The album’s only love song, “I’d Love to be Your Last,” once again proves that Wilson is an underrated ballad singer who is as blunt about her tender side as she is about her rowdy side.

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