THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Stretching the boundaries of his laid-back country style
Jake Owen could easily have stayed in his happy-go-lucky “Beachin’ ” country lane and been completely successful.
But his new album “American Love” (RCA Nashville) suggests that he is looking for something more. While the first single “American Country Love Song” may not stray too far from what made Owen an up-and-coming star, with its guitar-driven hook and the lyrics about Ford trucks, cheerleaders and quarterbacks, and oh-my blue eyes, that sound isn’t where the heart of the album is.
Instead, there’s the horn section that adds a new groove to the title track and Owen adopting Taylor Swift’s clipped phrasing from “Blank Space” for the verses of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” which works remarkably well for him.
But it’s the combination of the tender, traditional guitar ballad “LAX,” where he asks Los Angeles to take care of an ex-girlfriend, and the strutting, funky groove of “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You,” which features Chris Stapleton, that shows how much Owen has grown in the three years since “Days of Gold.”
There’s a musical and lyrical depth to “American Love” that makes Owen’s laid-back delivery much more appealing.