Music

Alan Jackson Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard on New Album 'Where Have You Gone'

AP Photo/Dave Martin and Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Alan Jackson's first studio album in six years, Where Have You Gone, arrived on May 14. It stays true to the stories of family, faith and fun that Jackson's long upheld as key elements of "real school" country music.

To really show us how it's done, Jackson paid tribute to one of his musical heroes, Merle Haggard, with a cover of "That's The Way Love Goes."

Johnny Rodriguez scored a No. 1 in 1973 with the Lefty Frizzell and Sanger D. Shafer co-write. A decade later, The Hag took it back to the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

At this point in his life and Hall of Fame career, Jackson's name and voice don't seem out of place next to those of Rodriguez, Frizzell and Haggard, which might just be the most telling takeaway from the whole album.

Jackson wrote 15 of the new album's 21 songs, with outside cuts by rising star Hailey Whitters and Jackson's go-to producer since 1990's Here in the Real World, Keith Stegall.

Six of the 21 recordings made the rounds online before the album release date . The most recent of these, "I Can Be That Something," is a tale of broken hearts and dingy bars that's yet another Jackson original that would've suited the catalog of George Jones.

Three new songs accompanied April 2's album release news: a title track bemoaning the lack of country music on country radio, the sentimental "Things That Matter" and another timeless drinking song, "Way Down in My Whiskey."

Read More: Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" + 4 More Songs Turning 20 in 2021

As Jackson fans have come to expect from the singer of "Drive (For Daddy Gene)" and "Home," three noteworthy songs reflect his family life. "Where Her Heart Has Always Been" was written for the funeral of Jackson's mother and includes an old recording of her reading the Bible. "You'll Always Be My Baby" and "I Do" were written with the weddings of Jackson's three daughters (the stars of the before-mentioned "Drive's" music video) in mind.

Jackson climbed to the top of country music as part of Nashville's Class of '89. He's since charted 66 singles, 35 of which reached No. 1.

Where Have You Gone Track Listing

1. "Where Have You Gone" (Alan Jackson)
2. "Wishful Drinkin'" (Alan Jackson)
3. "I Can Be That Something" (Alan Jackson)
4. "Where the Cottonwood Grows" (Alan Jackson)
5. "Way Down In My Whiskey" (Alan Jackson)
6. "Things That Matter" (Robert Keith Stegall, Michael White)
7. "Livin' On Empty" (Alan Jackson)
8. "You'll Always Be My Baby (Written for Daughters' Weddings)" (Alan Jackson)
9. "Where Her Heart Has Always Been (Written for Mama's funeral with an old recording of her reading from The Bible)" (Alan Jackson)
10. "The Boot" (Adam Wright)
11. "Back" (Alan Jackson)
12. "Write It In Red" (Alan Jackson)
13. "So Late So Soon" (Scotty Emerick, Daniel Tashian, Sarah Buxton)
14. "This Heart Of Mine" (Adam Wright)
15. "A Man Who Never Cries" (Alan Jackson)
16. "Chain" (Alan Jackson)
17. "I Was Tequila" (Alan Jackson)
18. "I Do (Written for Daughters' Weddings)" (Alan Jackson)
19. "Beer:10" (Alan Jackson)
20.  "The Older I Get"* (Hailey Whitters, Adam Wright, Sarah Turner)
Extra Track: "That's The Way Love Goes" (A Tribute to Merle Haggard) (Lefty Frizzell, Whitey Shafer)

"Where Have You Gone" Lyrics (Written by Alan Jackson)

It's been way too long since you slipped away
I just can't forget, I can't pretend it's ok
No other one could ever replace you
So I'll keep on believing and dreaming of you

Soft steel guitar oh how I've missed you
Words from the heart let me hear you again
Sounds from the soul, fiddle I need you
Sweet country music where have you gone?
Sweet country music please come back home

The songs from your memory I cling to today
I won't let them leave me, I won't let them fade
I don't care what th?y do, you're still the one
I'll b? here in Nashville 'til you return

Soft steel guitar oh how I've missed you
Words from the heart let me hear you again
Sounds from the soul, fiddle I need you
Sweet country music where have you gone?
Sweet country music please come back home

Sweet country music where have you gone?
The airwaves are waiting ,please come back home

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Alan Jackson Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard on New Album 'Where Have You Gone'