In the decade since his breakthrough "When the Sun Goes Down" album introduced him to the pop mainstream, Kenny Chesney has been careful to balance big, commercial smashes with smaller, more focused efforts that appeal to one of his niche interests.
His new album, "The Big Revival" (Blue Chair/Columbia Nashville), is Chesney's grandest statement since "When the Sun Goes Down" -- ambitious both in sound and lyrical themes. He rolls out songs driven by stadium-ready guitar riffs and rallying cries for a certain type of life.
The boldest songs bookend the album -- the rocking title track describing a revival meeting and "American Kids," a freewheeling, Dylan-esque collection of images over a catchy, folk-leaning musical backdrop. However, it's the ones in between where he really builds his vision of America.
On "Wild Child," he teams with his "You and Tequila" duet partner, Grace Potter, again, to profess his love for a strong-willed woman who "looks like a royal in a thrift-store dress, keeps my heart and her hair a mess" in a sweet, memorable ballad. In "Beer Can Chicken," he sings about how "it's the little things that make life worth living," championing the idea that good things come to those who wait over a loping country-pop groove that sticks with you.
Any of these songs could be hits, and there's even more where they came from. "The Big Revival" is a big-tent collection of future hits that celebrates regular folks who stand up for each other. In turn, even more folks will stand with Chesney after hearing it.
"The Big Revival"
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Big ideas, big-sounding guitars and big-time hits.