Alan Jackson and his Mama Ruth are the reason I love country music

We like a good biscuit. We wear cowboy boots, sometimes even with cutoff jeans. We love the Lord. And yes, we’re proud to be American.

But that doesn’t mean you can cobble all of those elements together, add a little swagger and a twang, and make an honest-to-goodness country song.

It’s all in the story.

Good country music tells us a story we already know by heart. It’s the humble, yet aspirational story of the everyday rural life. It’s who we are, honored by people like us, who happen to have a good singing voice.

A good singing voice, and maybe some big hair and boots thrown in for a little flash.

Alan Jackson has a story that began in Newnan, Georgia. Last Saturday, it brought him to a stage in Gwinnett County, to perform for family and friends, and thousands of ticket holders, including me and my husband.

We go to a lot of country concerts. In fact, Nashville is our vacation spot of choice. So we have a pretty high bar when it comes to “real” country music.

Alan Jackson, with his larger-than-life stature and his down-home attitude- not to mention that classic country voice- surpassed it on Saturday night.

His opener was Adam Wright, his nephew and a respectable singer-songwriter. He joined Jackson later in the show for a duet, only mentioning the relation at that point. The omission was a good idea, because Wright’s songs stood on their own with or without his connection to Jackson.

He also sang a beautiful rendition of “Georgia,” which gets extra points from me every time. Could we ask for a prettier state song?

Lee Ann Womack, the other big name on the ticket, came on after Wright and belted out many of her hits, including “I Hope You Dance,” “The Fool,” “Never Again, Again,” “A Little Past Little Rock,” and “I’ll Think of a Reason Later.”

Womack, who has been likened to Dolly Parton and who has similarly beautiful, big hair, delivers real country music with a voice that ranges from a quiet, sweet twang to arena-filling high notes. She’s the real deal.

When Jackson came on stage, we were reminded of just how many hits he has. “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Little Bitty,” and “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” are just a few of the chart-topping hits Jackson performed.

One of my favorites, and perhaps the song that Georgians relate most to, is “Chattahoochee.” I’ve always loved the guitar intro on that song. It was fun to sing along with Jackson to a song I remember from when I was “little bitty.”

My husband, Heath, has declared that “Remember When,” another of Jackson’s hits, is in fact the best country song of all time, with all due respect to George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” (Often given that title by country fans.)

“Remember When” details a family’s timeline, from the couple falling in love, to having children and imagining growing older.

A sample of the lyrics shows the beautifully written ballad’s bittersweet tone.

{Below is a portion of “Remember When,” written by Alan Jackson}

Remember when old ones died and new were born
And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged
We came together, fell apart
And broke each other’s hearts
Remember when

Remember when the sound of little feet
Was the music we danced to week to week
Brought back the love, we found trust
Vowed we’d never give it up
Remember when

Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone
To where we are, where we’ve been

Said we’d do it all again
Remember when

Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad
For all the life we’ve had
And we’ll remember when
Remember when

I have to agree with Heath. “Remember When” strikes the perfect chord between happy and sad, and makes us cherish the most basic element of country life: Family.

The thread of family was woven throughout Saturday’s concert, most poignantly when Jackson mentioned that his mother, Ruth Jackson, known as “Mama Ruth” to Jackson’s fans, had passed away two weeks earlier.

As he sang “Home,” the song he wrote and dedicated to his mother, tears streamed down his face and photographs of his beautiful mama filled the screen behind him.

“Home” details Jackson’s family history, and focuses on his parents’ sacrificial love. Below is a portion of the lyrics.

And they made their house from a tool shed
Grandaddy rolled out on two logs
And they built walls all around it
And they made that house a home

And they taught us ’bout good living
And taught us right from wrong
Lord, there’ll never be another place
In this world that I’ll call home

My mama raised five children
Four girls, and there was me
She found her strength in faith of God
And a love of family

She never had a social life
Home was all she knew
Except the time she took a job
To pay a bill or two

We were an arena full of fans, singing along with the superstar on stage, but more than that we were Southern people, seeing images that looked a lot like our family photographs. And Alan Jackson was a Southern boy who loved his mama.

“Real” country music springs from real country life. It is very gratifying when, whether you’re a farmer, a school bus driver, or a mama at home with her own little Southern boys, that life you love is honored on a big stage by a country boy with a good singing voice.

Thanks, Alan Jackson. God bless Mama Ruth.

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