Kenny Chesney's "Song for the Saints" is a step in the right direction for the popular country star. Inspired by the Hurricane Irma disaster, which hit Chesney personally as it destroyed a house he owned in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these songs are more serious and heartfelt than typical Chesney music.
Best of all is "Love for Love City," a reggae duet with Ziggy Marley incorporating steel drums into an inviting island mix. It's followed by a cover of Lord Huron's "Ends of the Earth," a rather brave move on Chesney's part, as it's unlikely his primary fanbase is familiar with Lord Huron's work. "Better Boat," another duet - this time with Mindy Smith - is equally rewarding. It's an introspective song sung over an acoustic arrangement with a message of encouragement. Self-improvement is a process, oftentimes a difficult process, but if we learn a little bit every day, we can continue to build a better boat (and by boat, he means a better man).
"Gulf Moon," another acoustic inclusion, exemplifies how this album presents the more thoughtful side of Chesney's art. Such a meditative approach is as good for country music, as it is for Chesney because so much contemporary country is too loud and superficial. It should be noted that Chesney has oftentimes been guilty of succumbing to the peer pressure of revving it up and doing the same. However, if Chesney has commercial success with this album's tamped down artistic reinvention, don't be surprised to see others follow suit. Even Chesney's duet with Jimmy Buffett, "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season," is inward-looking, and Buffett is usually Cheney's musical party buddy.
Although there aren't a lot of country grooves on it, the island vibes are nevertheless mostly acoustic. Therefore, nothing here will make you feel like a rock star, the way Chesney's past duet with Tim McGraw may have done. It all adds up to a strong, consistent and rewarding Chesney album. If not saintly, it's at least fully honorable.