Monday, September 24

LOTD talks about Kenny Chesney

Artist: Kenny Chesney
Album: Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates

Comments: In the media whirlwind of Kanye vs 50 Cent it was easy to forget that country star Kenny Chesney was also releasing an album in September. Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates, Chesney’s 10th studio album doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, but will give listeners a pleasant, if not always consistent listen.

Chesney is a smart man. He knows what his audience is looking for and he plays to those expectations. On album opener “Never Wanted Nothing More,” Chesney uses solid lyrical imagery with a gentle hand with great success. Painting pictures of moments of youthful euphoria, “Never Wanted Nothing More” is bound for adult-rock Valhalla. He uses his words well later on “Wife and Kids,” a track about the man’s desire to settle down and start a family. Chesney handles the subdued ballad with dignity by avoiding over the top sentiments and whiny exclamations. The piece comes off as wistful regret, and avoids being country emo (let’s all hope that genre never forms).

Chesney’s pro-family stance was a bit surprising to hear. His obvious admiration for family life sets him apart from other singers in his genre, making him more universal. Even more surprising is his spirituality. Throughout the album, Chesney makes reference to the Lord and how awesome it is to be with him. Considering the “get drunk and screw” mentality of much country music, it was both refreshing and confusing to hear.

Chesney’s tendency to pander to his audience is the downfall of the record. Too many songs sound insincere and forced, like Chesney is trying way to hard to appeal to his friends. It sounds like he is trying to describe situations he never understood, like a kid trying to describe War and Peace by reading the dust cover.

Even when Chesney is hamming it up, he’s still charming on all but two truly awful songs. The first, and less offencive of the two, is the hokey “Dancin’ for the Groceries” which is about just what you think it’s about. What was supposed to be a ballad for single mothers everywhere plays out like a Weird Al track instead. Chesney’s lyrics really fail him here as he tries to convey the pain of stripping with the same personality and familiarity he caries on songs about being young, and it makes the song sound ridiculous.

Still, “Dancin’ for the Groceries” is Beethoven compared to the downright deplorable mess of noise “Shiftwork.” This “song” combines slow western stroll music with Caribbean percussion in an almost terrifying way. I don’t know why people like Jimmy Buffet, and I don’t know why country artists think that island music would sound good with a yee-haw twang, but it goes down like broken glass every time and this song is no exception. I couldn’t even tell you what it’s about, my ears start to bleed 15 seconds into the song.

Despite the two giant turd sandwiches, Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates is a charming album full of character sketches that will appeal to the nostalgic in all of us. I can’t say I would ever buy more Kenny Chesney records based on the strength of this album, but fans of the man won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Key Tracks: Never Wanted Nothing More, Wife and Kids

Worth The Money: No

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