I've liked Kenny Chesney for a long time now, for almost as long as I've been listening to country music (since the early 90s). He's grown in popularity over the years, to the point where he's one of the biggest concert acts around. His records do consistently well, and I imagine that'll be the case again with his latest release, Lucky Old Sun, which hit the store shelves on my Nicholai's golden birthday (14 October). I picked it up on my way home from the Oktoberfest in Kewanee.
Anyway, I root for Kenny and his music. He's got a great voice, and he has that comfortable confidence that comes from years of performing experience. He's practically made a trademark of his laidback beachcombing persona, which sometimes works and other times wears thin. LaRena and I got to see him in concert, as a birthday gift from a friend, I guess it's been about eight years ago. That was about the point when he was just hitting the big time, and it was an awesome show. Phil Vassar opened, just him and his piano, and that was outstanding, too.
So, for all sorts of reasons, I look forward to a Kenny Chesney record, and I had high hopes for this new one, because Poets and Pirates (a year ago) was one of his best in years. On that record, his wanderlust and his longing for a wife and children, a home and family, brought out some heartfelt creativity and real poetic art. On Lucky Old Sun, however, he mostly just sounds sad and lonely to me, if not a bit pathetic. He needs to get a life, instead of constantly seeking to escape to a beach or a boat or a babe in his bed. Drinking and fornicating seem to be the substance of his life, for the most part, which is not only a shame but shameful.
There was a time when Kenny could sing with genuine sincerity about his childhood and family, his high school years and college years, fun with friends and everyday life. But you can only run with that material for so long before the well runs dry, especially if you're not making new memories along the way with real relationships that last for more than a night or a few months or whatnot. As far as I'm concerned, he's hit an all-time low with "Ten With A Two," which is possibly the most offensive country song I've ever heard. Somehow, it would have seemed more at home on an AC/DC record, and perhaps it wouldn't have disappointed me as much in that case.
The rest of Lucky Old Sun is a decent record, I suppose, even if not the most exciting or uplifting. I really don't care for "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven," which is just annoying in more ways than I can count. There's a couple other songs that are mellow enough to make for solid elevator music, or, one may suppose, lazing around on the beach of some tropical island. I do like the first and final tracks: "I'm Alive" (with Dave Matthews) and "That Lucky Old Sun" (with Willie Nelson). But the two real standouts on the record are "Down The Road" (with Mac McAnally), a folksy ballad about a young man who wants to marry a girl, and "The Life," describing the happiness another man finds with his own wife and his simple vocations. That's what Kenny needs: a wife and a life.
As far as I know, Billy Currington isn't married, either, but he does seem to have a life. His first two records were great fun, and his new release, Little Bit of Everything, has exceeded them in fine fashion. It, too, hit the stores on the 14th of October, but it blows Kenny's boat right out of the water. I really love this record; it may be my second favorite of the year.
Little Bit of Everything is aptly named, because it includes a great variety of tempos and topics. The songs range from fun-loving rollicks to emotionally mature contemplations of "life & love and the meaning of" (as the second track puts it). "Swimmin' in Sunshine," the opening track, is an infectious summer song of the likes that Kenny Chesney used to sing. This is one of the catchiest I've heard in a long time. Fans of George Strait, I think, would also enjoy Little Bit of Everything, especially "Every Reason Not to Go." Really, the whole record is easy on the ears, and even the sadder songs are more uplifting than get-you-downers. One of my favorites is "People Are Crazy," a clever little story song with the marvelous refrain: "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy." How's that for a Lutheran epitaph? Another favorite song is "Everything," which the ladies will probably appreciate for its charmingness. But the sweetness award goes to my top pick on the record: "No One Has Eyes Like You." Awww! Good stuff, all.
If you were only going to buy one new record released on the 14th of October, I hope it was Billy Currington. I'm bankin' on my Bekah-in-law lovin' it, too, and that she's enjoying it this evening.