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Kenny Chesney

Be As You Are (Songs From An Old Blue Chair) – 2005 (BNA)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Kenny Chesney

Though some winners of the CMA's Entertainer of the Year award would doubtless use the triumph as an excuse to go on auto-pilot, that's not the case with Kenny Chesney. Instead, the singer's first post-awards album is filled with a laidback, contemplative vibe that reflects his growing love for the Caribbean.

Indeed, if one takes what's offered here at face value, Chesney just might be getting ready to follow Garth Brooks into retirement-or, at least, into a more relaxed schedule that leaves him even more time for sun, sand and waves. At the same time, though, Chesney seems determined to be taken more seriously as an artist and especially as a songwriter. He had a hand in every number on the album, which starts off literally where his previous CD ended - with a pensive, autobiographical "Old Blue Chair," written by Chesney alone. And just to drive the point home, the new album closes with the same song, recorded on the beach in a guitar-and-voice-only version as the album was being wrapped up last summer.

Between these bookends, Chesney focuses largely on telling stories about people who came to the Caribbean islands and, finding something about themselves there, never left. It's clear both from these songs and from the liner notes that Chesney feels a kinship with them, and it keeps the mood reflective, with only an occasional good-time celebration like "Key Lime Pie" to provide some lighter moments.

Those who only like Chesney for the party hearty, catchy ditties of a fewyears ago will need to start looking for a new favorite. Between the weightier songs on his last CD and the restraint of this new one, it's pretty clear that, like his pal Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney wants to get a little respect and with this, he's made a pretty decent case that he deserves it.