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Circle Vol. III
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(ACR/Arista Nashville) Producer: Keith Stegall
Prime cuts: How do you pick from this batch of gems?
Critique: The story is already becoming the stuff of legend . . . Alan Jackson decides to record a pared-down, intimate CD of church standards as a 2005 Christmas gift to his mother. He enlists the help of a few stellar pickers and singers, as well as his long-time producer Keith Stegall. They complete the album, a modest 100 copies are made, and — here’s where it gets interesting — a few months later we find Precious Memories sitting proudly atop three Billboard charts, proof positive that Mrs. Jackson appears to have her finger on the pulse of American popular taste (a family trait perhaps?). Evidence also that the lanky Georgian can do no wrong these days, but then who doesn’t love these sweet melodies and poems of faith that seem almost part of the air we breathe? Blessed Assurance, Softly And Tenderly, I Love To Tell The Story, How Great Thou Art, In The Garden, Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, The Old Rugged cross, I’ll Fly Away . . . they’re all here, and more, numbering 15 in all. Jackson is in fine voice throughout, his gentle, everyman baritone probing right to the heart of songs that are too often heard buried under schlocky orchestrations and choral layers. By contrast, Precious Memories is underscored by John Wesley Ryles’ and Melodie Crittenden’s soulful vocal support and the unobtrusive ring of Brent Mason’s acoustic guitar and Gary Prim’s piano and organ. ’Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus features the tentative-but-heartfelt voices of Jackson’s wife and daughters. In a strange way, Precious Memories, containing not a single composition from one of contemporary country’s most autobiographical pens, reveals Jackson more nakedly than anything he’s ever done.
— Larry Wayne Clark
This review originally appeared in Music Row magazine. © 2006, all rights reserved