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Under the Influence ()

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Anyone who doubts Alan Jackson's roots as a honky tonk singer should turn to Under the Influences, his heartfelt salute to his favorite country singers. According to his self-penned liner notes, Jackson has "always wanted to do this album," and that's evident from the songs he chose to cover. There are several hits here, but they're the kind that aren't regularly covered -- "Pop a Top," "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," "Revenooer Man," "She Just Started Liking Cheatin' Songs," and "Once You've Had the Best." That, along with Jackson's loving reverence, makes this a step above the average covers album. Much of the material dates from the late '70s and early '80s, which makes sense, since he's a fourth-generation honky tonker raised on second and third-generation honky tonk. When he dips into Merle Haggard's catalog, he chose 1979's "My Own Kind of Hat." He picks songs written in the late '70s by Bob McDill. He also pays tribute to Hank Williams -- but Junior, not Senior. This all gives Jackson and Under the Influence true character. He's not going out of his way to pick historically correct songs, he's just choosing ones he likes. The album is all the better for it -- it's relaxed, warm, and entertaining, as he casually shows off his talents with some of his favorite songs. He rarely makes an effort to reinterpret the songs or contemporize the material, although the arrangements can occasionally be a little too clean. It also has to be said that the closer "Margaritaville," performed as a duet with Jimmy Buffett, sticks out like a sore thumb, but these two complaints wind up being nitpicking, since mainstream country didn't produce a better honky tonk album in 1999 than Under the Influence. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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