For the last 10 years or so I think everyone could sum up Kenny Chesney’s albums with two words: beach songs. And they’re exactly right. After starting out as a traditional country artist, Chesney made one successful beach album and realized that he could make a killing putting out Jimmy Buffett type songs. He then felt the need to put out several more of these albums, with each one pissing off critics more and more. We all know he’s capable of more than beach songs, so when he showed more seriousness for his new album, The Big Revival, I was looking forward to hearing a new sound from Chesney other than reggae and cool island breezes. Let me just say this before I start reviewing the songs on this album. This is probably the least beach sounding album he’s put out in several years, but that doesn’t mean the side of Chesney I dislike doesn’t come out on this album. He does however put out a few surprising good songs.
The Best Songs on the Album
The two best songs on this album are at the end of it. The first is “Don’t It,” a song about experiencing disappointment in life and how these experiences make you stronger from them. His vocals are great and the instrumentation is perfect for a soft song like this one. It’s just an acoustic guitar and Chesney’s voice. This it the kind of song that makes me like Chesney. Another song that makes me like him is “If This Bus Could Talk.” It’s a song about the sentimental meaning of a family bus that Chesney has grown up with his whole life and has seen many memories over the years. The inclusion of the piano alongside the guitar in this song is great, making it a real solid country song with good vocals and instrumentation. This song is supposed to create a nostalgic feeling and I think it will for many listeners.
Another song I think stands out and not just for its controversial theme is “The Big Revival,” the opening track on this album. The song is about a church where the pastor apparently tests people’s faith in God by having them hold a copperhead snake. Now some people may be offended by this ridiculous ritual because it paints this church to be a cult almost. But here’s why I’m not offended by it (I’m a Christian by the way). I don’t think this song is being serious in any way. Do you really go into a Chesney album expecting a lot of seriousness? If you do, you’ve apparently missed his last ten beach albums. I think it’s actually a fun song with a really catchy beat that actually talks about a theme you normally don’t see in mainstream country music. If there’s one thing I don’t like about this song it’s the echoes at the beginning of the song. I’m more offended by this more than the theme. I think this is a rock country song with strong instrumentation.
The Worst Songs on the Album
Chesney would be a solid country artist if he could put out an entire album of songs like the ones I point out above. But Chesney just can’t help himself and goes back to his old tropes that have made him famous. He doesn’t necessarily go back to the beach, but rather the party atmosphere. You may be able to infer its at the beach, but that’s up to you the listener. There’s one song title that stood out like a giant sore thumb when I was perusing the title tracks on this album and that’s “Beer Can Chicken.” It’s about what you would expect from a song with this ridiculous title. The song isn’t horribly offensive, but rather it’s just full of a long list of clichés you’re used to hearing in Chesney’s radio hits. The lyrics are very bland, but the instrumentation is solid. Based on this I think this song would probably do great on radio because I think this is the type of song that mainstream country fans eat right up. Think of it as a watered down version of Zac Brown Band’s “Toes.”
The other song on the album that is just down right bad is “Rock Bottom.” The song is about a man who has hit rock bottom in his life and he’s bouncing back by partying of course because that’s what normal people do according to mainstream country music. This is the kind of song that makes you hate Chesney because once again it’s a song filled with party clichés, including a reference to AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” further proving country music’s desperate attempt to be hair metal from the late 80s (I know AC/DC didn’t really do hair metal, but remember mainstream country music doesn’t work with logic). Just like “Beer Can Chicken” the lyrics are bland and repetitive. This is a song that also gets really irritating after repeated listens, so I would advise you to only listen to this song once if you’re morbidly interested in bad music.
The Rest of the Album
The remainder of the songs on this album hover around average to above average. Just like the first two singles from this album, “American Kids” and “Flora Bama,” “Til It’s Gone” is a decent song with just decent lyrics. The theme isn’t real clear and the instrumentation is just there. All three are songs that I have a “shrug my shoulders” attitude towards. I can take them or leave them. “Drink It Up” is an obvious drinking song of course. It has decent electric guitar play and is definitely more of a rock song than a country song. The theme has been done to death, but it’s doesn’t feel that cliché really. It’s a fun song that is completely harmless, but it’s a little boring. Another song along this same vein is “Save It for a Rainy Day.” The song is about a man who is getting over a broken relationship and trying to keep positive in the face of his heartbreak. He wants to save his tears for a rainy day. The song is above average and has a good message I guess. The lyrics are a little cliché and almost makes it come off in the same way “Rock Bottom” does, but it narrowly avoids this image.
One other song I feel is decent is Chesney’s duet with Grace Potter on “Wild Child.” Now is this a duet like you would hear on a Shovels & Rope album that would blow your socks away? Absolutely not, but I’ve always appreciated Chesney including the talented Potter on his albums. It’s a love ballad about a man’s crush who’s a free spirit that can’t be held down for too long. Chesney doesn’t have the greatest and most dynamic voice, but I thought they were good enough here alongside a talented vocalist like Potter. It’s a soft song with nice instrumentation.
Kenny Chesney definitely took his songs in a more rock direction on this album, something I’m completely fine with. It’s working well for Zac Brown Band right now and I think it works at times for Chesney on The Big Revival. Although Chesney is no where near the talent of Zac Brown Band and he doesn’t have Dave Grohl to work with. I also have to point out that this album is only 11 songs long, so I applaud Chesney for hitting the perfect album length and not making it an absurd songs length (I’m looking at you Tim McGraw, Lee Brice and Miranda Lambert). In this album’s bright spots the songwriting was actually solid. The best song on the album, “Don’t It,” was written by Chase McGill and Brent Cobb (third time this month Cobb has appeared in a review and I’ve praised his songwriting). The other song that has great songwriting is “If This Bus Could Talk,” which was written by Chesney and Tom Douglas. Chesney helped write four songs on this album (the other three are “Wild Child,” “Flora Bama” and “Beer Can Chicken”). In this album’s low spots, the songwriting was pretty bad. For some reason Chesney couldn’t fully escape the hokey and cliché lyrics that have earned criticism from people for years. I must say though the instrumentation on this album is really good and probably the best on a Chesney album since his early days.
This is a step in the right direction for Chesney, but there’s just too much holding this album back from being classified as good and really he had nowhere to go but up after his last album Life On A Rock. It surprised me with the amount of quality songs though (only three songs) and I give him credit for getting away from the beach for the most part. This album is worth a listen if you’re a country audiophile like me, but I definitely can’t recommend it.