Review Summary: "Everything good comes back around."
Jason Aldean has to be the most sonically inconsistent act in country music today. What kind of style he undertakes varies by project. You're either going to get the southern rock histrionics of My Kinda Party
and They Don't Know
, or the pisspoor R&B mimicry of Old Boots, New Dirt
and Rearview Town
, his last album. Thankfully, Aldean is back to doing what he does best on 9
. Time will tell if it truly stands up to some of his past projects, but it does have this going for it; it's definitely an album that meant to a lot to Aldean to make. He went to Nashville hoping to one day make nine albums, as that's his lucky number. He's finally hit that benchmark and he seizes the opportunity.
"Tattoos and Tequila" is a catchy, creative opener. Of course, Aldean didn't write it; he hasn't written a song since his 2005 self-titled album. But the lyrics that are presented offer an interesting take on a man trying to drown a former flame's memory. "She took most of me, and now all that I have left are tattoos to remember, and tequila to forget," Aldean sings. The instrumental sounds like a copy and paste of previous single "They Don't Know", but Aldean sells it with his vocals. He follows suit on "Blame It On You"; he quickly rehashes the struggle of drinking the pain away, but offers a decent enough take on the subject matter. "I could drink around the truth, but I can't blame it on you," he confesses.
"Champagne Town" is a treat for the ears. It opens with some bluesy electric guitar and features some subtle steel guitar on the chorus. "Got What I Got" is a foray into strictly pop territory. It plays like a B-side from Rearview Town
and it badly disrupts the album's ebb and flow. "Camouflage Hat" gets things back on track, putting Aldean's great vocals at the forefront and supplementing the manufactured bells and whistles with some nice neotraditional instrumentals. It's a meticulously executed tune that earned itself a few replays the first time I listened.
The highlight of the album comes in the form of "We Back." Playing almost like a celebration of Aldean's career to this point, it's got all
the staples of a vintage Aldean song. Vibrant shimmer on the electric guitar, high production value, nice drumming and Aldean in full control behind the mic. "We back on stage making the whole place rattle," Aldean proudly proclaims. "Back with the A-team, train on the track," he continues, knowing this is just the kind of music he's best at performing. It's sure to be a radio hit as it climbs the charts and it'll be well deserved if it hits number one.
As the album hits its back half, Aldean continues to perform each tune with all he's got, but the album does sag under the weight of its own runtime. There's 16 tracks to digest in total here. "Cowboy Killer" is probably the most interesting of the closing cuts. It's another attempt at being pop, but Aldean tackles a love-hate relationship with some solid singing and the production value is so solid that you can almost picture the toxic love unfold before your eyes. "Talk About Georgia" marks a welcome return of Aldean's penchant for gritty, southern rock overtones and it pays off. "She Likes It" closes the album with Aldean singing of a love that actually works out and implements some nice imagery to get the message across. With the windows down, in a nowhere town, getting lost somewhere to a song, I know she likes it ridin' all night long," Aldean sings. It's one of Aldean's best vocal performances in a while and brings 9
to a close on a strong note.
Fans of Aldean's previous work are definitely going to need to give this album a spin. It's definitely a product of the time it's been made in, and a couple of songs do a poor job at chasing trends. But the bulk of the album sees Jason Aldean playing the kind of music he was born to play. The gritter, hard rock edge will provide longtime fans the red meat and if you can appreciate Aldean stumbling into new territory, maybe some of the missteps aren't that bad at a glance. 9
is definitely among Aldean's best work, and one of the best country albums put out this year. It overstays its welcome just a tad, but the neotraditional country with great instrumentals is perfectly fine by this listener's estimation. Jason Aldean's ninth studio album warrants at least a bit of your time.