Kenny Chesney "Greatest Hits" (BNA, 2000)
Kenny Chesney "Greatest Hits II" (BNA, 2009)
Kenny Chesney "In My Wildest Dreams" (Capricorn, 1994)
Kenny Chesney "All I Need To Know" (BNA, 1995)
Kenny Chesney "Me & You" (BNA, 1996)
The boy was just plain born to sing in a formulaic style; he's admirably suited to a by-the-numbers approach. Mostly, the production makes me wince, but it's still weirdly listenable, and Chesney's vocal presence (if not his actual voice, which is a bit thin...) is a big part of what makes it work. At least at this point he still putting a bunch of twang into his vocals, and into his pickin' as well. Predictably, it was a pair of goddawful slow, tinkly, unctuous ballads that ran up the charts ("When I Close My Eyes," "Me And You"), but with a few honkytonk novelty tunes like "Turn For The Worse" to spice up the album, Chesney still sounds plausibly country. Heck, I almost even found myself wanting to sing along on a tune or two. For the more commercially-minded among you, please note that this album also has several well-produced songs on it that probably should have been released as singles ("No Small Miracle," for example), but that the record labels have pretty much forgotten over the years... So it's worth tracking this one down, especially if you're a fan.
Kenny Chesney "I Will Stand" (BNA, 1997)
A remarkably prefab set... I can see why the formula works, but I can't say as how I'm overly impressed. I dunno; he has a distinctive voice, but one that seems better suited to soft pop, rather than country, and the tinkly-piano arrangements just prove the point for me. I guess this is okay, but it's way too calculated and controlled for me -- no fun, no spark, no real passion. "From Hillbilly Heaven To Honky-Tonk Hell," which features guest vocals from Tracy Lawrence and the great George Jones, is okay, but again -- a little plodding and by-the-numbers.
Kenny Chesney "Everywhere We Go" (BNA, 1999)
No...! No...!!! Urrgh... must... not... like... Kenny... Chesney...album! Well, actually, I gotta admit this disc is pretty well produced and draws you in as good pop music should. And other than the inevitable tinkly-piano love ballads, it's also reasonably country sounding. I think he's really hit his stride here, comfortable and relaxed atop the sleek production, just singing the darn songs and not trying too hard to prove his point. It's possible this may be his best album to date... "She Thinks My Tractor Is Sexy" is a fine latter-day hillbilly novelty song, though some of the cheesy ballads may be even better, musically speaking. If you're seeking good commercial stuff from late '90s Nashville, this is a pretty fine choice.
Kenny Chesney "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" (BNA, 2002)
Kenny Chesney "All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan" (BNA, 2003)
A hefty chunk of this album doesn't seem all that "country" - the Jimmy Buffet-ish title track, for example -- but overall it ain't bad. When he puts on his thickest backwoods voice, Chesney sounds almost like a crooning Dale Watson (high praise in my book!) Plus, a duet with Willie Nelson on Willie's "Pretty Paper" ain't nothin' to sneeze at... For a modern Nashville holiday album, this is pretty nice.
Kenny Chesney "When The Sun Goes Down" (BNA, 2004)
(Produced by Buddy Cannon & Kenny Chesney)
This is a perfectly sculpted light-pop country album, inoffensive and doubtless ideal for playing not-to-loud at a backyard barbecue thrown by guys who are new to the whole country thing, dudes who like mild, '70s-style rock guitar riffs and who don't want to think too much about the music they listen to. It's light, frothy, goes down easy -- but it's more of a Tab or a Fresca, rather than a longneck or a shot of Jack Daniels. An example of this lightweight AOR approach is the title track, a calypso-tinged, parrothead-ish ditty sung along with Uncle Kracker that has delicate little steel pan drums laced atop the melody. It has an irresistible logic to it: if you're into it, this is a "great" album, even if it ain't all that country. Apparently Chesney, who had just hit the top of the heap in Nashville when this disc came out, spends a lot of time at his groovy getaway home in the Virgin Islands... Well, good for him. Still, it sure seems like he's gotten pretty far away from the rural roots of country music -- even from his own relatively rough early albums. Besides, most of these songs are too darn wordy and "deep"; Chesney seems to fancy himself a champion of middle-class domestic bliss, and while that's all very well and fine for all the happy, cocooning yuppie types out there, I'm not sure how "country" that kind of pampered navel-gazing really is... Besides, his stuff's just too darn pretentious and self-important... I've said it before and I'll say it again: best to keep it simple. Chesney just takes too long to make it to the catchy chorus, and even when he gets us there, it's usually too dense and not really all that memorable. Likewise, he has to try too hard to affect the "common touch" and not talk down to his audience, although he clearly considers himself to be a Great Artiste. Anyway, I'd be surprised to hear anyone humming any of these tunes twenty years from now. It's the wrong kind of "pop" for me... (Postscript, eight months later: Of course, I ain't exactly Kenny's target audience, as evidenced by this album's subsequent monumental commercial success...)
Kenny Chesney "Be As You Are" (BNA, 2005)
Chesney's been in the forefront of contemporary country singers who like to take dips into tropical waters... He's made a big deal out of how he owns a place in the Virgin Islands, and he has had a tune or two laced with steel drums and rum. Here, though, he goes whole-hog and gets all Jimmy Buffet on us, singing an entire album's worth of tunes about having fun in the sun... Nice work if you can get it, I guess, but he sure seems to be miles and miles away from the red dirt roots of Country's original fan base. Personally, it kinda ticks me off to hear some rich guy singing about how swell it is to play around on some beach-bound island resort all year long -- I'll be lucky if I ever go there once -- but maybe country music has just become way, way, wa-a-a-a-ayy less working class than I'd ever believe, and maybe I'm the only one who really cares. At least Kenny's having fun... So have a fruity drink with an umbrella on it for me, pal... you've earned it!
Kenny Chesney "The Road And The Radio" (RCA, 2005)
Kenny Chesney "Live: Live Those Songs Again" (RCA, 2006)
...Do we have to??
Kenny Chesney "Just Who I Am: Poets And Pirates" (RCA, 2007)
Poets and pirates...? All hail the new Jimmy Buffett!!
Kenny Chesney "Lucky Old Sun" (BNA, 2008)
Kenny Chesney "Hemingway's Whiskey" (Sony-Nashville/BNA, 2010)
Kenny Chesney "Welcome To The Fishbowl" (Columbia, 2012)
Kenny Chesney "Life On A Rock" (Columbia, 2013)
Kenny Chesney "The Big Revival" (Columbia/Blue Chair, 2014)
Hick Music Index