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Alan Jackson Earns Standing Ovation at Station Inn

Shows off his love of bluegrass at packed house.

You wouldn’t think a superstar like Alan Jackson would get nervous before a performance. After all, the man has sold nearly 60 million albums, topped the singles chart 35 times and played prestigious venues all over the world. However, when WSM radio’s Eddie Stubbs welcomed him to the stage last night (Aug. 27) at for a sold-out performance at Nashville’s famed Station Inn, Alan admitted to some jitters.

“I’m more nervous playing this thing right here than if I was playing a 10,000-seat arena,” Alan told the standing room only crowd.

He needn’t have worried. After performing his upcoming release, The Bluegrass Album, in its entirety, Alan received an enthusiastic standing ovation. A small club in a trendy Nashville area known as the Gulch, The Station Inn is known worldwide as Music City’s premiere bluegrass venue, and some of the genre’s legendary musicians have graced that stage, a fact not lost on Alan, who approached the gig with reverence.

He kicked off the evening with the album's opening song, “Long Hard Road,” and quipped at the end of the tune that it was a “long song . . . almost eight minutes.” The cheering audience obviously loved every minute. The packed crowd was peppered with record company folks, media, family (including Alan’s lovely wife, Denise) and fans, among them some who had stood in line for more than 12 hours just to get a chance to buy tickets when they went on sale Monday afternoon.

As Alan made his bluegrass debut, he was backed by the musicians who recorded the new album with him: Tim Crouch (fiddle), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Tim Dishman (bass) and Scott Coney (guitarist in Alan’s longtime band The Strayhorns). Ronnie Bowman and Don Rigsby sang harmony vocals most of the night with Alan calling his nephew Adam Wright to the stage to join him in singing “Ain’t Got Trouble Now," which Adam wrote. (Adam also co-produced the album with Alan’s longtime producer Keith Stegall.) Later in the evening, Adam’s wife, Shannon, joined in on “Knew All Along,” a poignant song she wrote with Adam about a friend who battled cancer.

Another emotional moment in the show came before “Blue Side of Heaven” when Alan spoke of getting the call last spring that George Jones was in the hospital. He and Denise went to visit Jones, and Alan says George was mentally sharp but physically he was failing. “He knew he was dying,” Alan said, sharing that he was terribly bothered by George's plight. “He was just laying up there knowing he was going away.”

After he passed, Alan said he shared “Blue Side of Heaven” with George’s widow, Nancy. The beautiful ballad about reuniting with a loved one in the afterlife is one of eight new original songs Alan wrote for The Bluegrass Album. During the evening, he also delivered the beautiful love song “Mary,” which he said was written for his wife, Denise, whom he calls Nicey. He then went on to explain ‘Nicey’ is just difficult to sing and didn’t work in the song, so he went with Mary, which he thought Denise would approve of  “since that was Jesus’ mama’s name.”

Emceed by legendary announcer Eddie Stubbs, the concert was broadcast live on WSM-AM 650 and there were cameras throughout the building taping the event for two upcoming music videos. “It’s hotter than a hoochie-coochie in here,” Alan said as temps in the club soared, and he joked that with the show starting at 9:30 he thought abut wearing his pajamas.

Alan didn’t show any lack of energy as he sailed through such lively tunes as a cover of John Anderson’s “Wild and Blue” and “Let’s Get Back to Me and You,” a tune he’d previously recorded and resurrected for The Bluegrass Album. He and the stellar band delivered a shining version of the Dilliards’ classic “There Is a Time.”  He also delivered a souful performance of “Way Beyond the Blue,” a Mark D. Sanders/Randy Albright/Lisa Silver-penned song that Alan said he had wanted to record since the ’80s. Song after song, Alan’s voice was clear, pure and strong, and he looked like he was having the time of his life. One of the many highlights of the night was “Blacktop,” an upbeat new tune Alan wrote as a counterpoint to all the dirt-road anthems so prevalent on country radio. “My perspective is different,” he told the crowd, smiling.

When Alan exited through the side door at the end of the show, the audience’s applause shook the building. He returned to the stage to close the evening with Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and invited the audience to sing along. It was the perfect end to a great night of music. Alan’s reverence for bluegrass music and its traditions was evident throughout the evening and he delivered a show that is sure to have had Mr. Monroe looking down from heaven and smiling.


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