Jason Aldean has just released his seventh studio album, ‘They Don’t Know’. This is a bit of a delayed review…intentionally. As with every Jason Aldean release, I allowed some time for this to grow on me, as I very rarely come across any of Jason’s new material that instantly connects. Jason has become a target in recent years for the anti-bro-country crowd and it’s difficult to argue with them at times; Jason’s sound can become slightly repetitive with a lack of lyrical quality and in truth, I never sit down and choose to listen to a Jason Aldean album. Nevertheless, I have always admired his talent as a live performer, and his ability to release hit after hit demands respect.
The lead single from this album, ‘Lights Come On’, sums up my thoughts to a tee. A very much self-indulgent track about the atmosphere at his stadium shows. There’s really nothing else to it, lyrically. “Here’s a little something to thank y’all for showing up…Aldean and the boys about to blow it up”. Ironically, Jason made absolutely no contribution to the writing process. Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have writing credits and like much of their own material, they don’t do themselves many favours. But, also like much of their own material, the song became a #1 hit on country radio and the more you listen to it, the catchier it becomes.
The second single ‘A Little More Summertime’ is much better and is up there with some of the best tracks Jason Aldean has ever released. There are still the signature electric guitars that drive the chorus but it’s much softer and easier on the ear than its predecessor. Experienced writers Jerry Flowers, Tony Martin and Wendell Mobley share writing credits for this one; they have a string of hits to their names including the likes of ‘Fast Cars and Freedom’ and ‘Banjo’ by Rascal Flatts, ‘You Look Good In My Shirt’ by Keith Urban and ‘Just To See You Smile’ by Tim McGraw. Jason enlisted the help of his wife Brittany Kerr for the music video which we have included below. If he consistently released songs like this, I wouldn’t have any gripes about him whatsoever.
Some of the album falls into the familiar Jason Aldean trap, pumped full of rocky, dominant drum beats and screaming electric guitars. I can’t help but label some as throwaway tracks that could have been replaced by something of a much higher lyrical and melodic standard. ‘They Don’t Know’ and ‘One We Won’t Forget’ are just variations on pretty much exactly the same song; Jason has released so many songs in the past that sound almost identical. I’d love to hear something slightly different, but you know exactly what to expect at times and it becomes a little tiresome. Hearing a 40-year-old married man with kids singing “Sending some little pictures my way, soaking wet getting in my head” just doesn’t feel right.
However, credit where credit is due. There are a number of very listenable, enjoyable tracks on the album that, although they maintain that distinctive Aldean sound, come as a welcome relief to the rock-infused material. His duet with Kelsea Ballerini on ‘First Time Again’ is surely destined to be a future #1 single and even features a string section (can you believe it?!). Not necessarily the collaboration you would have expected but it works superbly. ‘In Case You Don’t Remember’ takes the tempo down a notch and provides one of the highlights of the album, reminiscing about the magic at the start of a relationship. There’s a lovely warmth to the instrumentation; it’s Jason at his best.
The best track on the album is ‘All Out Of Beer’, an incredibly catchy anthem that is tailor made for Jason’s live shows and would be my choice for the next single release. “The only time you show up here is when you’re lonely…and I’m all out of beer”. Sublime instrumentation with a mainstream appeal that country radio will definitely embrace. This one falls into the ‘Fly Over States’ category rather than the ‘1994’ category! After a few less than impressive tracks, this song and ‘In Case You Don’t Remember’ really grab your attention again, and the rest of the album from that point onwards is very commendable.
This is another album that will no doubt provide Jason Aldean with yet another string of #1 hits and it’s definitely one of his better releases. Certainly an improvement on ‘Old Boots, New Dirt’ by a long stretch. After his omission from this year’s CMA Award nominations, he needed to get this one right, and for the most part, he’s done what was required. Certainly worth a listen.