'Uncle Alan' Jackson casts a long shadow on a husband-and-wife duo


This city is full of singers and musicians looking for a break. Very few, though, have a country superstar for an uncle.

And there's the rub: No matter how talented Adam Wright and his wife Shannon may be, some will wonder if the duo got an easy ride because of Adam's famous uncle, Alan Jackson.

"Some people think because of the connection to Alan that we jumped up and everything was easy and it was smooth sailing, but that's not how it happened at all," Shannon Wright said.

The couple, who call themselves the Wrights, released their self-titled sophomore album this week on Jackson's ACR label.

They wrote or co-wrote most of the songs and brought in producer Keith Stegall and songwriter Paul Kennerley for a disc that's sparse and rootsy with just enough polish to be accessible to radio.

The couple sat together for an interview recently, and said Jackson was always supportive and helpful &

up to a point.

"He always said 'I can get you meetings and introduce you to people, but that's all I can do,'" recalled Adam, who is the son of Jackson's older sister and was a ring-bearer in his uncle's wedding when he was about 4 years old.

For his part, the soft-spoken Jackson said the duo are deserving. "They'd been playing music, writing songs and singing all their life. They're the real deal."

Adam, 31, and Shannon, 33, both from Georgia, played in bands for years before they met in 1998. They wrote and performed together in Atlanta for about five years until, in one whirlwind week, they married and moved to Nashville.

"We had started digging deep into the country catalog and fell in love with it and got excited by the simplicity of the writing and the harmony singing," Shannon said. "We were pumped about coming to Nashville."

But once here, it was more of the same. She waited tables and he worked in construction while they made music and looked for a deal.

Finally, in 2005, Jackson signed them to his ACR label and released their debut, "Down This Road."

"I thought they were at a point where they were going to end up getting an offer somewhere," Jackson recalled. "I said 'I can put you on my label, and that way you can cut the record however you want to and do what you want to do.'"

The star began the label as an offshoot for his side projects, like his 2006 gospel collection "Precious Memories." The Wrights are the only act he's signed to it. Jackson records his own material for Arista Nashville.

While their debut didn't produce any hits, it did get them exposure on Country Music Television with a video for the album's title track.

Jackson also recorded a couple of their songs and took them on the road with him.

For a songwriter, having a superstar record your tune is like striking oil. But while the Wrights were pleased, they couldn't get around the fact that Jackson is family.

When veteran RB singer Solomon Burke covered one of their songs a couple years later for his album "Nashville," they were thrilled.

"To have somebody cut it who I have no relationship with whatsoever was huge," Adam said.

"You open up the album and there we are beside Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Don Williams and Bruce Springsteen songs," Shannon added. "That's something we'll have forever."

With the new record, the Wrights are bound to draw comparisons to classic male/female tandems like George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It's a sound that's been missing for a while and one that Jackson thinks is overdue.

But the Wrights didn't go back that far for inspiration. They had in mind the late '80s when neo-traditionalists like Patty Loveless and Randy Travis were wresting country music from a pop phase &

and when a young singer named Alan Jackson was waiting for his break.

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