PREVIEW: Alan Jackson
Aw, shucks, underneath that Stetson Rancher hat stands a humble, genuine country music star.

You can't tune in a country music radio station anywhere without hearing an Alan Jackson hit. Radio still banks on early ones like "Here in the Real World," the honky-tonk rollick of "Don't Rock the Jukebox," "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," and "Chattahoochee," and can't get enough of his new hits "It Must Be Love," and "www.memory." The hits just keep coming.

Sure, Jackson's level of fame allows him to be a shill for Ford trucks (and let's not quibble that the jingle he sang originally was about a Mercury, not a Ford). But the 6-foot-4 blonde-haired, blue-eyed Georgian, in trademark T-shirt and tight Wranglers cuts just the right figure of country wholesomeness. Ford Country indeed. Jackson might well be the spokesman for the whole of country music.

In an industry that only seems to require a hat, a drawl, and radio-friendly song of family values, heartbreak or barrooms, Jackson is the real deal. Nine of his albums have gone platinum or better. He's copped over 60 major music awards, has over 27 no. 1 hits, and sold something in excess of 27 million records since he started running with the big dogs in 1990. Every year, he sells more records, puts together bigger shows, and continues his stronghold on country music.

But this is a guy who loves to fish, who collects Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and claims his favorite ride (and we swear we're not making this up), is around Oregon's Crater Lake. He's been married to only one woman since 1979, has three daughters he adores, and was quoted recently as saying "Of all the things I've done, places I've been and awards I've won over the past few years, I still get more excited when I sit on the bus and write a good song."

Aw, shucks, and amen.

Jackson's new CD, "When Somebody Love You," his 10th for Arista/Nashville, is simply more of the same - modest, resonant country music plied with a journeyman's sure hand, and sung with conviction. Even the first hit, "www.memory," which runs the risk of being cute, trite and too modern, is instead a sweet song of longing. One might think that singing "Just click on me/at www.memory" would sound corny, but wrapped up in Jackson's supple country voice, it sounds wholesome and natural.

This project is the follow-up to "Under the Influence," a collection of country standards that managed to bypass commercial trends and compliment them at the same time. It earned him a top-five hit ("Pop A Top") and no. 1 single "It Must Be Love."

Jackson's has been a storied career. His wife and high-school sweetheart Denise was a flight attendant who happened to meet Glen Campbell in an airport in 1985. She told him about her songwriting husband and he gave her a business card for his publishing company. A few months later, the Jackson family moved to Nashville, where Jackson got his record deal and the rest is history.

Jackson's first major hit - the heartfelt ballad "Here in the Real World" - hit the airwaves Jan.13, 1990, and he hasn't looked back. He's had the same producer, Keith Stegall, who helped him fashion his first demo tapes. "We go way back," Jackson said in Country Week. "He's the guy that recorded the first material on me that helped me get my record deal."

Stegall apparently did everything right. Over the course of some 17 albums, including the new one, he's stayed true to his heartfelt honky-tonk sound. No bells, no whistles, no temptation to wander too far afield from the simple roots of country music. He leans on his heroes for inspiration -- George Jones, Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., Merle Haggard, George Strait, John Conlee, John Anderson and Gene Watson.

Jackson brings a long-haul truckload of those tunes to Portland's Rose Garden tonight, with up-and-comer Brad Paisley opening the show. A little honest honky-tonkin' might be a good chaser to Tuesday's election. Maybe we should have nominated the lanky Georgian who tells it like it is.

WHO: Alan Jackson
WHERE: Rose Garden Arena
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 10; 8 p.m.
OPENING: Brad Paisley
TICKETS: Ticketmaster (charge-by-phone at 503-224-4400,
online at and Rose Garden box office (503-797-9619), $31.50.