Alan Jackson’s latest runs 17 songs in 71 minutes, and what sounds initially like a pious daydream clocks in as a Zen sneak-fuck that mixes up countrypolitan waltzes with Chuck Berry blues and name-checks Jesus, “Kix and Dunn,” and bologna on white bread. Entirely written by the artist himself, Good Time lacks the pop savvy and uncanny nostalgia that producer Alison Krauss brought to 2006’s Like Red on a Rose. Jackson’s songs don’t seem uninflected so much as just plain skimpy, but their word-shy inertia suggests a sly detumescence that only the very successful can imagine, let alone turn to the service of their art.
“Good Time” sets the tone for a musically prolix and verbally laconic record—a five-minute rip on Berry’s “School Days” that adds Jew’s harp and vocoder to its Music Row rock ‘n’ roll, it finds Jackson singing, “I wanna have fun/It’s time for a good time,” which sounds wholesome enough. Later on, though, this past master switches to the imperative mood: “Shot of tequila, beer on tap/Sweet Southern woman, sit on my lap.” Like most of Good Time, the song evokes bygone days without saying anything very illuminating about them. Jackson seems more interested in necking on the couch with duet partner Martina McBride during “Never Loved Before,” and in convincing a woman he’s “not a stalker” before he loads her in his truck halfway through “Country Boy.”
More substantially, the death of a “sweet young woman” makes Jackson question God in “Sissy’s Song,” while “If Jesus Walked the World Today” casts Christ as a misunderstood hillbilly who drives a Chevy. “1976” mentions fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter, who “moved to D.C.” Still, Good Time is mainly about sex and television, so when Jackson sings, “Wonder Woman sure looked fine/Bionic Man was still prime-time,” you’re seeing clear through to his politics at last.