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What I Do by Alan Jackson

Alan is a superstar singer at the top of his game, as well as a happily married man and a father to three lovely children. So why does he sound so down?

About half of Alan's 10th album is taken up with songs of loneliness and despair, and he delivers them with enough to conviction to convince anyone he means 'em. The pain is insinuating in "You Don't Have to Paint Me a Picture," almost supernatural on "Rainy Day in June" and played for laughs in "If French Fries Were Fat Free" and the "Act Naturally"-styled "USA Today" - all written by Alan. Best of all is Erin Enderlin and Brent Baxter's "Monday Morning Church," about a man questioning his faith after the death of his wife. Graced by compelling religious imagery and a harmony vocal from Patty Loveless, it's one of the finest moments of Alan's career.

Don't worry - there is some cheer amid the gloom. The Top 10 "Too Much of a Good Thing" is a straightforward celebration of hearth and home, "To Do What I Do" is an even more straightforward thank-you to Alan's fans, and "The Talkin' Song Repair Blues" is just a hoot. "There Ya Go" is a wise, warmhearted charmer, while "Burnin' the Honky Tonks Down" cranks the story of a vengeful woman into five churning minutes of barrelhouse country. A couple of standouts, "Strong Enough" and "If Love Was a River," were penned by Alan's nephew, up-andcomer Adam Wright.

Musically, What I Do sticks close to traditional country - the blockbuster status of his previous album, 2002's Drive, clearly hasn't tempted him to try crossing over or gussying up. Instead, Alan continues to make a sweet science of simplicity - and that's nothing to be sad about.

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