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Kenny Chesney

Hemingway's Whiskey – 2010 (BNA)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Kenny Chesney

There are two warring sides to Kenny Chesney's musical personality. There's the part of him that wants to record throwaway, beach bum anthems like Coastal. However, the singer's better half excels at ballads like Where I Grew Up. The latter song contrasts youthful foolish behaviors with events that add quality real world experiences to a life. Drinking beer with high school buddies may have made him feel like a man, but it was a drunk-driving accident that grew him up - but fast. The single, The Boys of Fall will make you fondly recall high school days, even if you didn't play on the football team.

Musically, "Hemingway's Whiskey" ranges from Live a Little, with its Baba O'Riley-like rock guitar intro to the lovely, introspective, softie title track, which greatly benefits from Mickey Raphael's harmonica coloring. Small Y'all reveals something Chesney doesn't do well: humor. He may have the perfect voice for dramatic story songs, but George Jones - no slouch himself when it comes to selling drama, by the way - simply steals the show on this song concerning facing up to humbling experiences. Round And Round may not fool anyone into thinking it's a country song, what with its soulful rock groove. But its lyric, which wonders "why we can't be satisfied," particularly resonates, especially as it comes from the mouth of a fairly outspoken hedonist. Contentment seems like the modern day Holy Grail, Chesney suggests with its lyric.

"Hemingway's Whiskey" is an album that kind of sneaks up on you. It may not seem all that exciting upon first listen. But give it a little time, and - as with whiskey - you'll eventually catch its buzz.