Artist:  Alan Jackson
Title:  "Precious Memories" 
Label:  ACR/Arista Nashville

If ever you could judge an album by its cover, this would be the time. Let me paint you the picture (or just look above this review). An old, one-room, white-washed country church photographed in sienna-tinged hues of brown, black and white standing in a clearing. Simple. Graceful. Elegant … and poignant. Such is Alan Jackson’s "Precious Memories."

At press time, "Precious Memories" tops SoundScan’s Overall Christian Albums chart. Jackson is one of only a handful of major country crooners to record an all-gospel album during the past 20 years … and the marketplace is thirsty for such a long, cool drink of water. But Jackson never really intended to release this album to the public. No, it was a collection recorded as a Christmas gift for his mama. Lucky for us, his label head got a copy, too.

In true family-tradition fashion, Jackson picked out 15 of his mother’s (and his) favorite hymns and signed up his wife and three daughters for BGV duties. Then he recorded the album in a natural, unpretentious manner, using, at most, guitar, piano and organ. And, in this case, minimalism works. With such an uncluttered background working to his advantage, the heartfelt sincerity in Jackson’s voice shines through like a ray of light cutting the darkness – which is what this album accomplishes on the whole, too.

Highlights include a rousing rendition of “Are You Washed in the Blood?” which segues seamlessly into “I’ll Fly Away,” as well as earnest, ardent performances of “Softly and Tenderly” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

Listening to "Precious Memories" delivers on the promise of the album’s title. You’ll feel as if you’ve happened into an old country church on a warm, lazy Saturday afternoon to witness an intimate rehearsal for the Sunday service. And you can just tell there’s gonna be a revival!


    
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