Kenny Chesney - Songs for the Saints
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Songs for the Saints (Blue Chair, 2018)

Kenny Chesney

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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.

CDs by Kenny Chesney

Here and Now deluxe, 2021 Here and Now, 2020 Songs for the Saints, 2018 Live in No Shoes Nation: 10 Years of Concerts, 2017 Cosmic Hallelujah, 2016 Life on a Rock, 2013 Welcome to the Fishbowl, 2012 Hemingway's Whiskey, 2010 Greatest Hits Two, 2009 Lucky Old Sun, 2008 Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates, 2007 Live Those Songs Again, 2006 The Road and the Radio, 2005 Be As You Are (Songs From An Old Blue Chair), 2005

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