Alan Jackson Celebrates 20 Years With Free Show

You'd think Alan Jackson might want to celebrate two decades in the music business by taking a day off.

Instead, the laid-back singer will mark the occasion by performing a free concert.

"It's just something we wanted to do," Jackson said recently. "We've got about 50 hits, so it's hard to do them all. We'll try to pick a few that the crowd might like."

Jackson normally plays arenas, but he'll sing Wednesday at a club called Cadillac Ranch in the city's honky-tonk district.

The show comes as thousands of country fans pile into Nashville for the Country Music Association's annual festival, which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday. This year's lineup includes Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire and many more.

Jackson's show is sure to stir up old memories for the 50-year-old Georgia native; he played lots of clubs before landing a deal with Arista Records 20 years ago this month. He went on to sell more than 50 million albums and chart a slew of hits, many of them from his own pen.

His latest album, 2007's "Good Time," has produced three No. 1 singles — "Small Town Southern Man," "Country Boy" and the title track. His new single "Sissy's Song" is in the Top 10.

While Jackson won't call it a comeback album, it did produce his first No. 1 song since 2003's "Remember When."

"I hadn't had a mainstream album in a few years," he said. "I'd done a gospel thing and then an artsy album with Alison (Krauss, who produced Jackson's 2006 CD "Like Red on a Rose"). It had been a few years since I'd had an album like I'd always made. So it was time."

Joe Galante, chairman of Sony Music Nashville, which includes Jackson's Arista label, thinks there's more to it than that.

"The collection of songs he had on this record were certainly head and shoulders above what he'd had recently," Galante said.

At present, Jackson has four or five tunes written for the next album, which he'll probably start recording this summer.

He knows he's got his work cut out for him.

"I think every album you have, especially if it's done well, you feel like you're competing with yourself," he said.

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