The odd thing about Drive is that its centerpiece and its emotional fulcrum is a song that was likely one of the last recorded for the record. That song, of course, is "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," Alan Jackson's attempt to capture the hurt, pain, confusion, and overwhelming sadness caused by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The song works because Jackson keeps his sights simple as he conveys the bewilderment and sadness of the average American in the days after the attack, sketching the little things that people did to just get through the hours or how time just stopped cold. Given the enormity of the subject -- it's simply not something that can be summarized in song -- it's a surprisingly effective and moving tune, something that signals that Jackson is indeed in the forefront of the country singers of his time because it plays to his strengths: it's within the tradition of classic country and delivered simply, but with the vernacular and production of the modern day. And that's why even if it was a last-minute addition to the record, it fits so well into a typically strong collection of material from Jackson -- musically, it fits perfectly among these heartache ballads and mid-tempo honky tonkers, but it also gives it significant emotional weight. It, in effect, acts as the anchor for the rest of the album, lending songs that are very good genre pieces -- whether it's outside material like the excellent, poppy "A Little Bluer Than That" or original material -- extra weight. The great thing is that Drive doesn't really need it, since it's filled with top-notch songs, including the great George Strait duet "Designated Drinker" and "Drive," a tribute to his dad that's nearly as affecting in its own way as "Where Were You." This is not a total shock, since Jackson's track record is one of the strongest in '90s country, but nevertheless a record this solidly crafted and emotionally resonant is a welcome event all the same. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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