Jason Aldean's 5th studio album, Night Train, just dropped last week. Jason has officially crossed the barrier from solid act to bonafide superstar. The unveiling of a stadium tour that coincided with the album release proves this. Few country acts can sell out big stadiums, but the powers that be have decided Jason Aldean is in that mold. But how does Night Train stack up to his lofty expectations??
The album opens with "This Nothin Town", which is basically "Tattoos On This Town" Part II. Is it bad? Not at all. It's a nice picture of small town living, its accurate, and it's catchy. Is it necessary? Not really. "Tattoos" was a well written song, cliche, but relate-able. This song is just average and cliche. You already did this Jason!
Unfortunately, this theme is repeated in this album. The first single, "Take A Little Ride" is basically a rehash of "My Kinda Party" Except this time, the truck is moving, as opposed to parked in "My Kinda Party". So there's some evolution there... Both have those rockin country cuties and AC/DC guitar riffs, they basically could be the same song.
That brings me to my next gripe about this album. The sound. There isn't a fiddle to be found. I just reviewed 3 Pears, another album sans fiddle. That album featured twangy guitars and thoughtful lyrics. Jason? Checklist of countryisms and heavy riffs. In an interview with Billboard, Jason himself says "The biggest thing with songs like that is being able to rock those songs up a bit,you may hear a demo that kind of sits there, and you can spice them up just by the tones of the guitars, the production of it, and not being scared or thinking, 'we need a fiddle on this thing 'cause this is country music.' I don't think there's a fiddle on the whole record, honestly. It's not because I don't like fiddle, but I would rather hear a raunchy guitar than somebody sawin' on a fiddle, that's just the way it is."
Wow. Look, you don't have to have a fiddle to be country. There isn't a "list" of what a song needs to be country. I'm not saying Jason isn't country, but, I feel he needs to try a little harder to stick to the traditions. He used to blend older sounds and new so well. "Amarillo Sky" and "The Truth" are modern sounding, and very country. There are glimmers of this on this album. "Night Train" and Water Tower" both have very cool sounds. The lyrics in both are tired and overdone, but they both have that modern country sound that Jason made his name in. Slower tempo ballads, but still a big sound. Both of these could be huge hits on the radio.The big event on this album is "The Only Way I Know", a duet with arguably the three hottest male acts in country today, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Eric Church. The song itself is bland and nothing remarkable. It's catchy enough, but the lyrics lack a story or a point really. But its guaranteed to be a big ol hit. Luke steps out of his comfort zone on this song a bit, trying to sound tough. Not sure I buy it, not in those skinny jeans buddy. This song fits Eric's bravado much better, but he is under-utilized on this track. The only explanation I have (and never noticed until now) is that his voice is pretty similar to Jason's, and they don't want to upstage the clear leader of the song. It's almost hard to tell which is which at some points.
The biggest lightning rod of the album is "1994". A country-rap tribute to Joe Diffie. Yes, you read that correctly. The "country+rap=crap" crowd will hate this. The Colt Ford fans will love it (or maybe compare it to Colt and deem it inferior and hate it, who knows). Where does that leave the casual fan? I don't know. I don't like the hip hop atmosphere of the song. Is it catchy? Hell yeah. Is it well written? Probably not. But, as much as I want to tear this song up, I do love me some Joe Diffie. This sounds nothing like what the ole Pickup Man would sing, but if it gets him some new fans and some recognition in today's crowd, so be it. Little Victories.
As for the rest of the album, its pretty much the same song over and over. Mid tempo loud ballads. This is a much more serious record than My Kinda Party, but that doesn't mean its better. None of the songs offend me. None stand out. It's ok. I am fairly confident the songs I detailed will be the singles off the album, nothing else sounds like a big song. None will flop, but I don't hear the huge smashes he is used to in there, "I Don't Do Lonely Well" is the best of the bunch, if I must pick one.
Overall, Night Train is familiar territory. If you love Jason Aldean, buy it, you wont be disappointed. Its very similar to his other records. If you are a casual fan, don't bother, you pretty much have heard it all already. If you hate Jason Aldean, why are you reading this? You weren't gonna buy it anyways!
Standout Tracks: "Night Train" "Water Tower" "This Nothin Town"