It's Saturday, August 20, 2016, and what a way to start the weekend off than with some Kenny Chesney! I chose Kenny's latest album with the mindset of comparing his music to the dearly departed, Elvis Presley, “The King of Rock and Roll”. This week marks the 39th anniversary of The King's passing. In the past many have concluded that Kenny Chesney isn't country, isn't rock and roll, isn't raggae, but is many times compared to Jimmy Buffet with his Caribbean island songs and his love of the beach.. Elvis was a little Rock and Roll, a little Blues, a little Rockabilly, gospel, and Pop. Like Elvis, Kenny has invented his own genre and his own style, just as Elvis did many years ago.
At the end of his 2013 tour, Kenny announced he would take a year off from touring to “reconnect, revive, rekindle, and reclaim” himself, as well as “his soul”. He wanted to give his fans something MORE; something different. Something to rattle their cages; make them think and feel on a different level. Not like today's artists or any of his past albums, and no repeat conveyor belt music cranked out just for record sales. He's always in competition with himself to find a balance between life, and as a writer, artist, and musician. Kenny felt he wasn't pushing the envelope enough, and wanted to recharge those batteries of his: to rewind and revive, to find himself. Take time to find something different than party songs, beach songs, and drinking songs, which have all racked up gold and platinum status for him in the past, by the way, but different; with more feeling and more personal songs that get to the heart of the matter. Setting the tone on this album was to lift his audience up, give them new songs they can relate to in everyday life, and in most everyday circumstances. Songs that touch his fans deep inside their souls, and to have the depth to connect by laughing, crying, giving hope and understanding, and celebrating life through each lyric and every song. With the debut of this album, it seems his year off has certainly paid off!
Kenny's latest album entitled, THE BIG REVIVAL, is just that; a huge revival of his soul where he and his No Shoes Nation fans come together to celebrate life and love to the fullest. He found a “common thread' that runs through each of the songs on this CD, which basically tells us all, that he understands and has been there in those situations too. 'The Big Revival is about picking yourself up, up off the bottom. It's about reclaiming your soul, in a way. It's about revival. It's about restarting. It's about reclaiming what was yours. It's about living life with passion.”- Kenny. It's about having a voice in your head that tells you not to give up; to keep moving, and that everything is going to be alright even though your life might suck right now.
On the title track, The Big Revival, the lyrics transport us to a mountainside tent revival full of lost souls. A soul revival; a soul searching experience. Even though Kenny admits he isn't religious to the extreme of testing fate with a snake, but more spiritual in nature than the religious tent revival practice of “Praise the Lord, and pass me a copperhead'. The Big Revival brought back fond memories of days long ago when a tent revival is just what the preacher ordered to revive and give rebirth to a fading and lost soul. I think Kenny captured all this and more on this song and latest album.
Drink It Up, the second track, isn't what you think it is. Most would think it's just another drinking song, like Kenny and all the other country songwriter's seem to have a penchant for these days. Instead, it's a song about enjoying your life, living in the moment, and celebrating life to the fullest! Don't waste your time on the things that don't matter, but instead focus on the good things in life; to catch that moment, to fill your cup with all those good things, then drink all that goodness up.
Til It's Gone, the third track, is about letting the fans know that LIFE has a way of moving you on, whether you want to move on or not. Enjoy the day, enjoy life, enjoy what makes you HAPPY. Not to take anything or anyone for granted, but not waste even one precious drop of the good stuff that keeps us all happy and content in life also. When Kenny was asked what he hoped to say to his fans with this song, he said, “We only have one life, one chance, one ticket to the big dance, it's you and me holding on, right down to the last song.”-Kenny. It's a high energy victory song that resonates goodness in every day life, right down to the last song of every concert he performs. Kenny encourages us to grab all life's goodness and savor every moment, Til It's Gone.
American Kids, the fourth track, transports us to back in the day; to bell bottom jeans, hippies, the groovy 70's, and living life in a small town. This song is a little slice of the American Pie that's revisited and gives us that warm, fuzzy, feel good, and in the moment feeling, that transports us to happy days long gone. American Kids is a fun, upbeat, picture postcard song that anyone who grew up in the 60's and 70's can relate to. This song gives credence to us all being “A little messed up, but we're all alright”. Ain't that the truth?
Wild Child, just WOW! I think this is my single most, and all time favorite song of Kenny's, and Grace Potter seals the deal, once again with her amazing vocals. With all the new country “Bromances” going on these days, and songs about women in Daisy Duke shorts and bikini tops sitting on a tailgate while drinking beer has made many quite a bit of cash, Wild Child, does not shed a pale light on women, nor does it objectify women like most country songs do these days. Instead, Wild Child, elicits the dreams, hopes, and desires of a free spirit, with a gypsy soul that loves to love everything in her path, that roams about and dreams for happiness in the simplest of things on a daily basis. It is a very empowering and uplifting song for women, “seen not through the eyes in her head, but seen and lead from the eyes of her heart”: to feel useful, needed, worthy, to have a chance, and not be looked down upon as a tramp, or God forbid, worse.... a country song cliché. She may be a little crazy, a little wild, a tad innocent, but not to be confused with being irresponsible or eliciting tawdry actions. She can be an Executive, a nurse, a teacher, a doctor, a student, a Mom, a sister, a wife; she's all of these things and more because she has the freedom to just BE and BE HAPPY! At the end of the video, Grace Potter and Kenny's message is simply stated: “You were born to dance to the beat of your own heart. To roam without cages, with the innocence of a child, and the free spirit of untamed horses. I hope you laugh without stopping. Live with abandon, and love like it's all there is. Stay wild, my wild, wild child.”
Beer Can Chicken, Rock Bottom, Don't It. Save It For A Rainy Day, FloraBama, and If This Bus Could Talk all have the same “common thread” of living life to the fullest, and sets the tone of grabbing life by the horns, having fun, being happy, and living in the moment: whether hitting Rock Bottom or going through a breakup, LIFE is going to come at you full throttle whether you want it to or not, so why not Save It For A Rainy Day, instead of wallowing in self pity? It's about making mistakes and wondering if you “should've taken a right turn instead of a left turn”-Kenny. These songs encourage us all to keep moving on in the face of adversity, troubles, and woes. “Life has a way of making you strong. Life has a way of moving you on.....Don't It?”-Kenny. FloraBama is the only Kenny Chesney concert I've attended, and let me tell you, it was quite the experience, and an awesome, fun filled day with my NO SHOES NATION family on a Florida beach! Kenny is explosive, dynamic, and can put on one heck of a concert for his fans up on stage! If This Bus Could Talk is always, and in the spirit of Kenny Chesney, is to Spread the Love and work hard, but play even harder! Five out of five stars for this awesome, feel good album!
Cc: Penney Holley for Country Music News International, Saturday, August 20, 2016