Alan Jackson: Small Town Southern Man

by Zane Ewton

The country music industry experienced something of a dry spell in the 1980s. Fortunes changed quite a bit in 1989 when a new crop of performers launched careers that took the genre onto a new, yet familiar, and highly lucrative stage.

Alan Jackson and his brand of new, traditional country was part of that class of 1989 (with the likes of Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Travis Tritt) that sparked renaissance of country artists.

In the 30 years since, Jackson has scored 35 number one hits, dozens of awards and a Country Music Hall of Fame nod.

The documentary Small Town Southern Man is an opportunity to celebrate Jackson's career and tell his stories through his best known songs - songs based on his own family and experiences.

Jackson's sisters as well as a handful of his business associates and peers tell this story of the unexpected singer who was in his 30s before scoring a record deal on the strength of a traditional country sound, approachable hillbilly charisma and songs that appeal to the "common man."

That Jackson wrote so many of his own hits is considered quite the accomplishment in Nashville, where an industry is built on songwriters farming out songs to the right singers, hoping to catch a hit.

It's almost laughable how common of a story it is for Nashville outsiders to come in and face multiple rejects because they are not this, or not that. Yet the artist finds great success in being themselves.

That's essentially the Alan Jackson story. He wrote deceptively simple, straightforward songs that connected. The arc of the documentary follows songs like "Here in the Real World," "Chasin' that Neon Rainbow" and "Chattahoochee" and how each song is a snapshot of Jackson's life.

His songs are far more compelling than this rather paint-by-numbers documentary. In that respect, it's a terrific reminder of Jackson's strengths as a songwriter and performer but it merely checks the boxes when it comes to telling his story.

Alan Jackson: Small Town Southern Man

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