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Precious Memories by Alan Jackson

Grade: A

Back in December 2001, I asked Alan Jackson if he still had any musical ambitions left to fulfill. “I’ve got to make a traditional Christmas album for my mama, for one thing,” he replied. “And then I’ve got to do a gospel album for her.”

Never let it be said that Alan doesn’t do what his mother asks. That traditional holiday effort, Let It Be Christmas, was released in 2002, and now comes his first gospel offering.

In fact, Precious Memories was originally meant only for Ruth Jackson’s ears—Alan recorded it as a private Christmas present for her, but was eventually convinced to release it in stores. The homemade roots show: the 15 tracks here are played by a stripped-down band featuring only acoustic guitar, piano and harmony vocals, and “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” features grandma-pleasing appearances from Alan’s wife, Denise, and their daughters, Mattie and Ali.

The result is an intimate portrait of a superstar’s spiritual side, revealed in an unassuming, relaxed atmosphere. The track listing is made up mostly of Baptist hymns, with a lyrical emphasis on compassion that suits the warmth in Alan’s voice. Ruth Jackson isn’t the only one who’ll likely say amen.

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