It's quintessential Kenny Chesney. On "Just Not Today," from the new
Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates
(BNA **), the country superstar finds himself in a familiar place. It's the juncture between youth and adulthood, feeling the approach of the latter but not ready to let go of the former.
"One of these days we're going to have to grow up . . . just not today," he sings somberly.
It's a sentiment that has obviously struck a chord with many. Chesney is a crossover phenomenon who has sold 25 million albums and reigns as the entertainer of the year for both the Academy of Country Music (his third time) and the Country Music Association (his second).
"Just Not Today," however, is about as deep as Chesney gets. Which means that this would-be pirate is again sailing in pretty shallow waters.
The leadoff track and first single, "Never Wanted Nothing More," with its touch of bluegrass amid the usual rock guitars, is a lively, feel-good number that's slight but undeniably infectious. The same can't be said for the obligatory Jimmy Buffett rip, "Shiftwork," a desultory exercise that even duet partner George Strait can't rescue.
The Tennessee native continues to fall flat when he tries to be serious and introspective. When he observes that "everybody thinks I've got it all" while he really longs for a "Wife and Kids," he just sounds mopey and self-absorbed. "Don't Blink" is meant to be profound but comes across as trite.
And when he goes on a "Wild Ride" (with guitarist Joe Walsh trying hard to liven things up), it's more like a "Mild Ride" - no one is going to be locking up the womenfolk and the good china.
Just Who I Am closes with "Demons" - "When I'm not chasing demons, there's demons chasing me." Yeah, right. Considering all that has come before - the only number that even hints at real darkness and complexity is the standout ballad "Better as a Memory" - this perennial lightweight's claim rings almost laughably untrue.