With his cool persona, ever-growing songwriting chops, and uncompromising country delivery, Alan Jackson has quietly become country music's most complete performer.

With his cool persona, ever-growing songwriting chops, and uncompromising country delivery, Alan Jackson has quietly become country music's most complete performer. Here he shows no signs of having peaked; in fact, he's delivered perhaps his best album ever. On Drive, Jackson is a man completely in control of his considerable powers, whether it's the sweetly sentimental title cut with its gently ringing guitars or the stone country gold of "When Love Comes Around." The sparse, Appalachia-tinged "A Little Bluer Than That" and "Bring On the Night" are weary perfection, and conversely, "Work In Progress," "Designated Drinker" (a duet with George Strait), and "First Love" showcase the writer's keen insight and wit. The album's showpiece, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," breaks down last year's tragic events into everyman terms. In a career marked by excellence, Jackson has topped himself again and makes a strong statement as traditional country's king.—RW

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