He just wanted to give his mom a gift. Instead, Precious Memories, the old-time gospel album Jackson recorded as a Christmas present to her—with vocal cameos from his wife, Denise, and older daughters Mattie and Ali—wound up being a surprise to himself, garnering critical acclaim and two CMA nominations. "It's funny it has done so well," says Jackson, 47. "I just wanted to make it real simple. I wanted it to sound like my mama would have heard it in church." With his new CD, the Alison Krauss-produced Like Red on a Rose, Jackson is back to straight-on country. But he has more experimenting in mind. "I like Kelly Clarkson
's 'Breakaway,'" he says. "I told my girls I could put a banjo in that thing and make it country!"