Album Review: Kenny Chesney – Hemingway’s Whiskey
Four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney won’t compete for the coveted honor when the awards are handed out on November 10. In the last year, he’s taken a sabbatical from touring, effectively surrendering his title as the industry’s torchbearer.
According to Chesney, his hiatus has given him a fresh perspective in terms of picking songs. It sounds like a winning recipe for an artist who seemed to be cruising along in recent years. His first couple albums had only established him as a George Strait clone, but he’d busted through that comparison and built a career on four-minute bits of nostalgia.
Now a man in his mid-40s, Chesney offers Hemingway’s Whiskey, a reflective album where he’s pondering an uncertain future. The album’s lead single “The Boys of Fall,” focuses on a small town’s obsession with high school football, but it’s just as much an admission of his own fears as he passes through middle age.
Known largely for his rowdy devotions to island life, Chesney has become the hillbilly king of the Caribbean. With Whiskey he maintains that image and proves that he can still let loose occasionally. For years, the road warrior worked at a frantic pace, so on songs like “Coastal” and “Reality,” he’s convincing as he relishes a life of surf and sand.
Cheseny remains most comfortable with standard Southern pop-rock arrangements, and his best efforts come with the help of two distinctly different collaborators. A fine version of “You and Tequila,” a Matraca Berg/Deana Carter composition featuring Vermont rocker Grace Potter, is filled with a sense of longing and unrequited passion: “It isn’t easy to forget/The bitter taste morning left.” With “Small Y’all,” a humorous duet with George Jones that preaches peaceful relations, Chesney delivers his most traditional offering in years.
The spare title cut, written by Guy Clark, is the emotional centerpiece, playing out the sorrows of a broken man who’s “living one word to the next and living one line at a time.” After years of chasing stardom, Chesney now seems ready not to be tied down to those demands.
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- A.B.: Janice - I saw that too and sent him a Tweet about it.
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