There is no denying that Jimmy Buffett has been an influence on a lot of modern country artists' music, most notably Zac Brown Band and Kenny Chesney. Buffett kicks off his new album, his first in years, with Somethin' About a Boat, a folky song with reggae rhythms that sounds like it would fit nicely on the next Chesney album.
In addition to the island theme that inundates his music, Buffett also peppers his songs with his lighthearted sense of humor. Songs like Einstein Was a Surfer and I'm No Russian highlight the lighter side of his personality. Toby Keith guests on the first single, Too Drunk to Karaoke, which brings the two men's love of alcohol and odd sense of humor into the forefront. It stands out on the album though, coming across as more juvenile than the majority of "Songs from St. Somewhere."
For every light hearted moment, there is a pretty island ballad. He slows things right down for the quiet I Wave Bye Bye, a farewell lullaby penned by Jesse Winchester. This is followed by Colour of the Sun, a meditation that expresses a wisdom gained with age, of a life lived fully. The decision to include I Want to Go Back to Cartagena a second time with Spanish inflections brought by duet partner Fanny Lu could be deemed unnecessary. The duet version could easily have been the only version included, and the album would not have suffered.
The song which most completely sums up Jimmy Buffett in 2013 is Oldest Surfer on the Beach. He laments on time passed and the contentment that some find in their later years, when priorities come into focus and moments are more fully appreciated. The message to slow down and enjoy life is one that has been told in many different forms, but it is packaged well in this Mark Knopfler-penned song sung by an artist whose name is synonymous with the sun and the sand.
Parrotheads will undoubtedly love the album, but casual fans will find much to enjoy here as well. It is less of an obvious marketing push toward the country scene than "License to Chill," but it is enjoyable to hear a musician in his fourth decade comfortable in his own art. With the exception of the duet misstep, there is no obvious attempt to cater to the masses. Buffett has a finely developed image, which he appears comfortable fully immersing himself in. There is no sense of foreboding as he advances in years; the relaxed artist seems even more chill these days. "Songs From St. Somewhere" is a great addition to a lengthy catalogue and captures an artist at ease with his music.