Alan Jackson — “Remember When”

Released: 11.18.03

Peak: #29

Thank God for Jimmy Buffett. For a minute there, Alan Jackson seemed infallible. The brilliant “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” gave way to “Work in Progress,” a self-deprecating traipse through masculine clichés, and “That’d Be Alright,” which had kind words for a dangerously un-American world where “[E]verybody everywhere had a lighter load to bear/ And a little bigger piece of the pie.” Then Jackson went and baited his second Greatest Hits with the Buffett collaboration/ soon-to-be hit “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which is only actually true one out of every sixty minutes.

The other bonus track on that best-of, though, was something else. From the moment the introductory guitar lays out the melody for our inspection, “Remember When” has a classic feel, and it moves forward with a calm, unrushed assurance matched by Jackson’s vocal. Just where you expect some crappy song-doctored bridge to disrupt the song’s flow, the song instead floats into gentle key change and a laid-back solo. Even the strings stay out the way.

The lyrics are semi-autobiographical, following high school sweethearts from mutual virginity loss through a rocky pass of implied infidelity to parenthood and highly credible promises of golden age to come. Though I’m no fan of the belief that having children brings a troubled couple closer. I don’t deny that it’s a possibility, or, for a serious-minded man and woman, even an opportunity. In real life, it should be noted, Alan and Denise Jackson separated briefly after the birth of their third daughter, as a result of what one wikipedician euphemizes as “the strains of Jackson’s career.” In other words, Jackson, like any good Christian would admit of himself, was far from infallible. With “Remember When” he made something lasting and beautiful from that fallibility.

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