Country Throwback: Alan Jackson Nails ‘Old Rugged Cross’ at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium

by Keeli Parkey

Hearing Alan Jackson sing a gospel song can transport you to church.

In your mind, you rise from the pew at the preacher’s request and open your hymnal. The song’s prelude rings out on an old piano. The choir director, who has served the church for decades, leads the congregation in song. You are soon singing along to a familiar hymn with your fellow worshippers. Your voices blend together in praise.

Jackson encapsulated the Sunday morning feeling at church with his performance of “The Old Rugged Cross” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross/The emblem of suffering and shame,” Jackson sings as he strums along on his guitar with a piano. It’s the opening line of a hymn so many Christians know by heart.

“And I love that old cross where the dearest and best/for a world of lost sinners was slain,” he continues. “So, I’ll cherish the old rugged cross (rugged cross)/Till my trophies at last I lay down/I will cling to the old rugged cross/And exchange it some day for a crown.”

Ernest Tubbs recorded “The Old Rugged Cross” in the 1950s. His recording was the first among many to come in the decades that followed.

Watch Alan Jackson Sing ‘The Old Rugged Cross’

Alan Jackson’s version of “The Old Rugged Cross” captures the sincerity of someone wanting to connect to his Savior. His performance is emotional, heartfelt, and moving. There are no frills here. It’s just an artist singing from his heart. The audience inside the Ryman Auditorium that night was clearly moved by his performance.

The emotion clearly comes across in the video. Watch Alan Jackson’s performance of “The Old Rugged Cross” below:

“The Old Rugged Cross” was one of many gospel standards Alan Jackson has recorded in recent memory. His “Precious Memories Collection” album includes gospel staples such as “Blessed Assurance,” “I Love to Tell the Story,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “He Lives,” “Only Trust Him,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.”

In addition, Jackson’s gospel album has been called “one of the most reflective gospel albums” by Jolene Downs of “If you like gospel music, this is a definite must-have,” Downs said.

Check Out More Country Throwback Performances

Are you a fan of Alan Jackson or of country throwback performances? has you covered. For example, you can watch Alan Jackson perform “Monday Morning Church” from 2004, “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” from 1991, “The Older I Get” from 2017, and “Tall, Tall Trees” from 1996. also features other country throwback performances from many, many artists including Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Waylon Jennings, Toby Keith, and Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell.