Alan Jackson, "Freight Train"

70 Billboard Rating

Although the style vs. substance debate has been raging for more than 50 years along Nashville's Music Row, there's no mystery about which side Alan Jackson falls on. Just as the fruit-flavored martini is for drinkers who don't much care for the hard bite of gin, the vast majority of Nashville's most famous export is intended for folks who don't much care for country music--at least not Jackson's brand of traditionalism. His 14th studio album, "Freight Train," opens with the blue-collar tribute "Hard Hat and a Hammer," which could be a giant radio hit, given the current economic woes in the heartland. He duets with Lee Ann Womack on Vern Gosdin's 1977 weeper, "Til the End," and recruits bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent for harmony on three tracks, including the haunting, lovely "Every Now and Then." And Jackson combines genuine emotion with a clever twist on "Tail Lights Blue."--Wade Jessen

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