Kenny Rogers - You Can't Make Old Friends
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You Can't Make Old Friends (Warner, 2013)

Kenny Rogers

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Kenny Rogers has aged well, perhaps because he was already prematurely grey back when he first entered the country music realm more years ago than he'd probably care to mention. He sings, with the help of old friend Dolly Parton, on this album's title track about how you can't make old friends. And disarmingly honest lines like, "Who's going to tell me the truth?" raise this song above being just another music buddy number. The only trouble with having Parton sing a duet with you is that she usually steals the show, which she does again here.

This is not to say Rogers doesn't also sound good because he does. He has that distinctive, gravelly, wonderfully aged singing voice, which perfectly lends itself to performing story songs. One particularly good musical tale is You Had to Be There, which details a strained father and son reunion. This man - that inhabited the soul of a gambler so many years ago - shows us he still knows when to hold 'em and fold 'em. Inhabiting the son's voice he sings, "I should have been learnin' how to fish/Instead of learnin' how to smoke," which just about encapsulates how this boy's life went wrong. During the verses, Rogers nearly speaks his lines with the voice of experience, as only Kenny can.

We probably could have done without something like Dreams of the San Joaquin, which attempts to explore the migrant worker's life, when John Steinbeck's already done so in print, and so much better.

Nevertheless, this album is a mostly strong return to form for Rogers, and it's easy to see why Warner put its muscle behind it. It's doubtful country radio will give Rogers equal opportunity, but it would raise that medium's quality quotient if it did.

CDs by Kenny Rogers

You Can't Make Old Friends, 2013 The Love of God, 2011 Water and Bridges, 2006

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