Where do we start with any review of a new album from Jason Aldean? Well, let’s address the two elephants in the room to begin with. Firstly, any review of any new Jason Aldean album is pointless in terms of what reviews are designed to achieve because Aldean is now at the stage of his career where he has created his own cottage industry and has a set of loyal fans that will purchase albums and concert tickets irrespective of what reviews say. Secondly, as an artist, Aldean is comfortable and happy releasing albums in a particular style over and over again. He doesn’t feel the need to challenge himself or push any envelopes with his sound. Indeed, there are whole writing teams in Nashville who dedicate themselves to trying to write ‘Aldean’ songs, his style has become so, some people would say, iconic and others would say, formulaic.
The take away from most Jason Aldean albums is that there are usually about four awesome songs that you can add to an ever growing playlist of classics like ‘My Kinda Party’, ‘Night Train’ and ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’. Previous album from last year, ‘Macon’ provided the obligatory four with ‘The Sad Songs’, ‘This Bar Don’t Work Anymore’, Heaven’ and ‘After You’. Outside of the ‘obligatory four’ you are often left with the feeling that you’ve heard it all before from Aldean, but, to all intents and purposes, he cares not one jot for that, preferring instead to stay within his wheelhouse and give his loyal fanbase the sound and style that they have come to expect from him.
New album, ‘Georgia’ is no exception. From the off, what is interesting about ‘Georgia’ is that it is quite a chilled, mid-tempo album. The blueprint for a Jason Aldean song is a quiet verse, often with a little fancy programming or production sounds, some unusual drum beats and then an explosive chorus where the guitars kick in and the vocals go up a level. On ‘Georgia’ most of the songs stay within the same space tempo-wise. Gone is the bombast of tracks like ‘We Back’ or ‘Lights Come’ and there is nothing with the Blues feel of ‘You Make It Easy’ either. Instead, ‘Georgia’ is packed with mid-tempo, anthemic songs that follow similar patterns and styles.
The opening three songs, ‘Whiskey Me Away’, ‘Trouble With a Heartbreak’ and ‘The State I’m In’ are all set in that post-break up world where the dude is struggling. All are mid-tempo songs where the verses are quieter than the choruses and there are also some ‘Burnin’ it Down’ style production values too. The melodies are strong, you’ll find yourself humming along on first listen and singing on the second but there is nothing original or challenging there that really grabs you.
Track four is a little different, however. ‘Midnight and Missing You’ opens with a slightly different guitar line for Aldean and although the song builds in typical fashion to a louder chorus, it feels slightly different in terms of the usual ‘house style’.
‘Burnin’ It Down’, to my ears, had a detrimental effect on Jason Aldean. It was a surprise to people at the time and was a big hit for him, providing an evolution for his sound but it has gone on to become a blueprint that writers all over Nashville try and copy whenever they hear that Aldean is putting together a new album. ‘Ain’t Enough Cowboy’ is simply a re-write of that song and the sound and feel of it has gone on to influence Aldean in negative ways.
‘God Made Airplanes’ is a catchy, melodic song that will appeal to fans of Aldean’s ‘They Don’t Know’ album and ‘Your Mama’ breaks the mould a little in terms of sound, closing down ‘Georgia’ with a more traditional, less produced feel that harkens back to his earlier work. The finger snaps and programming manage to creep in during verse 2 but it’s a sweet song that doesn’t really fit the slick, programmed vibe of the album, but works, nevertheless.
So where are the four songs that you’ll put on your ‘Best Of’ playlist I hear you ask? Well, they are all stacked in a consecutive run towards the end of the album. ‘My Weakness’ has a different structure to most Aldean songs, repeating the title at the end of every other line instead of the usual ‘quiet verse, loud chorus’ blueprint. It’s an atmospheric song that serves to lay down the foundations for the highlight of the album, ‘Holy Water’, which comes next. ‘Holy Water’ is perhaps the best song on ‘Georgia’, although that might be because the melody and the foundation of the song that drives it forward has been lifted directly from ‘Night Train’, one of Aldean’s most iconic songs. Plaintive guitars, an atmospheric chorus and evocative, nostalgic lyrics all combine on this standout track. ‘Rock n Roll Cowboy’, meanwhile, is perhaps the loudest, most bombastic track on ‘Georgia’ but it’s still no ‘Lights Come On’ as Aldean releases the most chilled, mid-tempo album of his career, so that one has to go into the ‘Best Of’ playlist almost by default. It’s also one of the few songs on the album that isn’t set in that post-breakup, heartbreak world which Aldean is so fond of. Unusual, really, for a happily married family man. I would throw ‘Your Mama’ onto the list as the fourth and final song although I’m not convinced it will stand the test of time and repeated plays but it sounds so different to most of the rest of the album that it stands out by virtue of that, if nothing else.
Simply put, ‘Georgia’ will delight long-time fans of Jason Aldean but won’t bring in any new ones. It’s another album on which he sets out to find a series of songs that sound reminiscent of everything else he has ever done and when the best song on the album (‘Holy Water’) is a replica, melody wise, for another one of his most beloved-songs, you know that the mission statement for this project wasn’t ‘let’s challenge ourselves to come up with the most original and boundary pushing album we can make.’ Between ‘Macon’ and ‘Georgia’ you could probably make a really good album, although it would still sound like every other album Jason Aldean has produced, which for many of his fans, is absolutely fine.
Tracklist:. 1. Whiskey Me Away 2. Trouble With A Heartbreak 3. The State I’m In 4. Midnight And Missin’ You 5. Ain’t Enough Cowboy 6. God Made Airplanes 7. My Weakness 8. Holy Water 9. Rock And Roll Cowboy 10. Your Mama 11. Take A Little Ride (Live from Las Vegas, NV) 12. Burnin’ It Down (Live from St. Louis, MO) 13. Any Ol’ Barstool (Live from Knoxville, TN) 14. Rearview Town (Live from St. Louis, MO) 15. Blame It On You (Live from Manchester, TN) Record Label: Broken Bow Records Buy ‘Georgia’ by Jason Aldean