The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Precious' and platinum

Alan Jackson sings old hymns

Alan Jackson is one of country music’s biggest superstars. Recently he released a CD of religious music that has just gone platinum. Precious Memories (Arista/Sony; 2006) contains 15 traditional gospel hymns, including “Blessed Assurance,” “Softly and Tenderly” and “How Great Thou Art.” The CD was originally recorded privately as a Christmas gift for Jackson’s mother. It’s his first gospel album.

Precious Memories is a nominee for album of the year at the 40th annual Country Music Association awards, which takes place Nov. 6 (to be broadcast by ABC). Jackson is also a nominee for male vocalist of the year, an honor he has won twice.

The album’s selections are probably familiar to older adults but not necessarily to young people. I heard my grandfather, born in Mississippi in the early 20th century, sing and hum some of them as he went about his daily routine.

Jackson’s arrangements provide a wonderful way to encounter this music. They are extremely simple, with just piano, organ and acoustic guitar. They feature Jackson’s solos and a few backup singers.

The harmonies here are pure country. There is no effort to “modernize” the presentation. The hymns display influences such as folk music and camp-meeting hymnody of the early 1800s. Jackson is known as a neoclassicist in country music. His recordings generally evoke the genre’s early roots and display relatively little evidence of rock and pop.

The hymns’ themes are predominantly a longing for God (“When We All Get to Heaven,” “I’ll Fly Away”) and an affirmation that Jesus is present in our daily lives (“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Blessed Assurance”).

Whether or not Precious Memories wins the big award, Jackson has made an important contribution to country music.


Bobi Tanger

Bobi Tanger

Posted at 1:23 am (U.S. Eastern) 1/25/2009

I am so pleased to have this available. These are hymns of my heritage and I love the country purity of Alan Jackson's voice. I'm looking forward to adding this album to my praise and worship collection. Thank You Alan.

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