Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that Jason Aldean is one of the most consistent artists in country music. We very rarely hear anything ‘experimental’ and off-piste; you know exactly what you’re going to get when a new Aldean album rolls around. His new project, ‘Rearview Town’, doesn’t do much to change that trend. Launch week couldn’t have gone much better for the Aldean camp – he bagged ‘Entertainer Of The Year’ at the ACMs which will further boost the inevitably dominant album sales.
Aldean’s loyal fan base of tailgate party-goers and stadium attendees will absolutely adore ‘Rearview Town’. It’s a straight-down-the-middle approach from an artist who is completely in touch with the interests of his supporters, but equally it’s another release that will split the country community. I’m fairly impartial when it comes to Jason Aldean reviews; the likes of ‘Night Train’, ‘Fly Over States’ and ‘When She Says Baby’ are some of my favourite country anthems from the last decade and I’m a big fan when he’s on point, but I can’t say I ever choose to listen to a full Aldean album from start to finish due to the lack of variety. I really enjoy the music but I prefer to mix things up.
As soon as ‘Dirt To Dust’ kicks in, you know that ‘Rearview Town’ will take you on the familiar high-energy journey full of screaming electric guitars and rocking melodies simply tailored for the stadium shows. With every track coming in close to the three-minute mark, the songs come by thick and fast, and the opener is followed by the equally heavy and thumping ‘Set It Off’ and ‘Girl Like You’. In truth, much of the album seems like a big ‘F*** you’ to his critics; nobody pulls off this style quite like Jason Aldean and he’s more than happy to shove it in people’s faces for the large majority of this 15-track project. All three of the openers are sure-fire radio hits, especially ‘Set It Off’ with its undeniably catchy groove and hook.
The real highlights on the album are the rare moments of subtlety, epitomised by the album’s lead single ‘You Make It Easy’. It’s a special one for Aldean, who says the song reminded him of his wife Brittany and the helping hand she provided during the aftermath of the Route 91 tragedy last year. It’s a real shame he doesn’t write his own material to add a much more personal, relatable edge, but ultimately, he’s got a formula that has consistently delivered and that won’t change any time soon.
‘Drowns The Whiskey’ is by far the best and most ‘country’ offering on the album, of course helped by the terrific addition of Miranda Lambert whose voice just oozes Texas. There’s even a sprinkling of pedal steel in there (yes, you did just read that correctly!). This is a wonderful piece of work from Brandon Kinney, Jeff Middleton and Josh Thompson – “Whiskey’s supposed to drown the memory / I’ve gone from one to one too many / And the thing that really gets me / Is how your memory drowns the whiskey” – the two voices blend perfectly and it’s a welcome moment of song writing depth and true emotion.
Title track ‘Rearview Town’ is a grower too. Almost the flip-side to ‘Fly Over States’, it’s the tale of a small-town boy who can’t wait to get out and leave the dark memories behind. It’s a typically power-charged Aldean melody but there’s real grit and an atmospheric feel that really clicks in after a few listens. ‘Better At Being Who I Am’ slows down the pace, providing another classy moment, and it sums up Aldean’s approach to his music with a message of defiance and a reluctance to change.
On the whole, ‘Rearview Town’ is a very listenable album if you can tolerate the Jason Aldean vibe. I doubt it’ll do much to convert the sceptics, but ultimately is he going to care when he’s packing out football stadiums left, right and centre? For me, as is the case with every Aldean album, a lot of the material blends into one and becomes a little samey, but there are a few gems in there that will hopefully see the light of day as singles. Vocally, he’s one of my favourite male artists, and I wish we’d hear a lot more of the ‘Drows The Whiskey’ Aldean than the turbo-charged, radio-centric Aldean. But this will no doubt be another hugely successful collection to add to his repertoire and it won’t do any harm to his ticket sales whatsoever.