Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson Unveil New Albums

Alan Jackson ’s 11th album and Willie Nelson ’s latest mark new country CD releases this week.

Jackson wrote nine of the 12 new songs on Drive (Arista Nashville), which includes two versions of his Sept. 11 anthem “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).” As ever, Jackson’s self-penned songs stay close to home for subject matter, as with “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” a tribute to his late father. He explores the agonies and ecstasies of love in songs such as “The Sounds” and “Work in Progress.”

Jackson gets back to the country traditions of drowning a broken heart in “Designated Drinker,” a duet with George Strait . But it’s with “Where Were You” that the album reaches its high point. In addition to the version recorded live at the Country Music Awards show last November, Jackson includes a new studio version.

Nelson probably has lost count of the number of albums he’s issued now. In addition to the 72 albums he has charted at Billboard, he has numerous compilations and re-issues out at any given moment. The Great Divide (Lost Highway) is as eclectic a release as Nelson fans have come to expect.

Produced by Matchbox 20 discoverer and producer Matt Serletic, the album includes duets with Bonnie Raitt, Lee Ann Womack , Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas and Kid Rock. Nelson also resurrects Mickey Newbury ’s piece of pop psychedelia, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and records Leslie Satcher ’s Willie Nelson tribute song, “You Remain.”

Two stalwart honky-tonk singers are represented by retrospective releases on HighTone Records’ Best of the HighTone Years series. The Gary Stewart CD includes 13 songs such as “Brand New Whiskey,” “Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor” and “Make It a Double.” Dale Watson ’s album also contains 13 cuts, with songs such as “Truckstop in La Grange,” “Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint” and “I Hate These Songs.”

Old-time music legend Alice Gerrard again joins with fiddler Brad Leftwich and banjo picker Tom Sauber for their third old-time music album. As Tom, Brad & Alice, their new CD We’ll Die in the Pig Pen Fighting (Copper Creek) is tilted toward instrumentals but also includes vocal numbers. The 18 songs represent old-time music strains from Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma.