Nashville star Alan Jackson is finally realizing a long-held dream: to record a bluegrass album.
“I’ve been trying to do (a bluegrass album) for 15 years,” he tells Rolling Stone. “It just seemed like every time we got in a position to start one, something else came up and it just never worked out.”
Jackson appears 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, just 10 days before the official release of “The Bluegrass Album” (Capitol Nashville). The project is highly personal to the singer/songwriter, who wrote eight of the album’s 14 tracks and picked several classics to round it out, including The Dillards’ “There Is A Time” and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon Of Kentucky.”
“I wanted to pay my respects to it because I think it’s a great genre and it’s real close to country,” Jackson tells The Baltimore Sun. “Bluegrass is one of the last American music (genres) that’s stayed somewhat close to its roots.”
Among the most personal tracks is “Blue Side of Heaven,” which drew its inspiration from the passing of country legend George Jones, one of Jackson’s idols.
“It just kind of hit me hard when George (went),” according to Rolling Stone’s account of a recent Jackson performance at a small venue in Nashville. “He was dying and he knew he wasn’t gonna (live) but a few days — it bothered me every day.
“I was listening to this song and I sent it to (Jones’ widow) Nancy Jones after George passed away and she told me she played this thing every day. That made me feel good, because it’s a sad song, but it has a sweet side, too.”
Although Jackson’s “Bluegrass” departs from his typical sound, which melds traditional country with a more pop approach, he should have the clout to pull off such a project.
Jackson, whose 2012 release “Thirty Miles West” went to No. 1 on the country chart, has moved almost 60 million albums, yielding 35 chart-topping singles and 50 hits in the Top 10. He has won all the major country industry awards multiple times and received two Grammys, as well as the ASCAP Founders Award. He is also a 2011 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Despite his credentials, Jackson views each record as a new test of his creative powers.
“Every time you make an album or write a song, it’s a challenge to do it,” Jackson tells The Sun. “I think that’s still it — making the records, whether it’s country or whatever it is. Making the new music has always been the most fun for me.”
How his venture into bluegrass will figure into his arena shows, like his upcoming date in A.C., Jackson hasn’t said.
“I’m not really worried about trying to get (the album) on the radio,” he tells Rolling Stone. “If everybody likes it and people want us to come play live, then we’ll probably look at that. I guess I’ve got to wait until it gets released and see if the fans like it or not.”