Let the record company suits chase after Nashville's next big thing. Alan Jackson found his country niche years ago, and he ain't straying. His latest album, his seventh (including last year's multiplatinum greatest-hits package), finds the Stetsoned singer tackling all the great country themes—lovin', leavin' and honky-tonkin'—with his usual smooth yet down-home style. The result may be his best record yet.
Jackson wrote or cowrote five of the album's 10 songs, including the irresistibly swingy "There Goes," about succumbing to the temptations of romance, and "Must've Had a Ball," a laughing morning-after musing sure to become a jukebox classic. Backed by plenty of fiddle and steel guitar, each cut is perfectly polished and radio-ready. Indeed, the infectious novelty song "Little Bitty," by veteran songwriter Tom T. Hall ("Harper Valley P.T.A."), has already been a hit on Billboard's country chart. Simple, heart-spun lyrics and stick-in-your-head melodies have made Jackson one of Nashville's best-loved and most successful performers. Smart Georgia boy that he is, Jackson knows enough to keep dancing with them that brung him. (Arista/Nashville)