From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Kenny Chesney “Welcome to the Fishbowl” (Sony Music)
Fans of Kenny Chesney’s signature cocktail of island-country anthems, power ballads and the middle-age introspection found on his acclaimed 2010 studio effort “Hemingway’s Whiskey” likely will eagerly dive right into “Welcome to the Fishbowl.”
But overly fussy production threatens to drown some of the best songs on the superstar’s latest album.
Case in point: His newest gold-certified smash “Come Over,” a steamy-but-sad booty call that needs its cheesy echo effects like the perpetually bronze singer needs a full bottle of self-tanning cream. Chesney and co-producer Buddy Cannon build up so many layers of vocals and instrumentation over the mournful ballads “El Cerrito Place” and “To Get to You (55th and 3rd)” that a listener practically needs an archeology degree to scrape down to the promising poignancy.
Likewise, “Sing ‘Em Good My Friend,” about an old man selling his last worldly possession, an old guitar, to pay his sick wife’s medical bills, has the potential to become one of those great old country story-songs, but the emotion gets lost amid the bevy of backup singers incessantly cooing over every chorus.
Fortunately, fewer frills get in the way of the heartbreak Chesney pours into the relatable power ballads “While He Still Knows Who I Am,” about a son trying to make the most of the time left with his dementia-plagued father, and “Always Gonna Be You,” about a man despairing over lost love.
The Tennessee native and U.S. Virgin Islands dweller channels a beachy breeze on “Time Flies,” ponders turning a friendship into something more with “Makes Me Wonder” and delivers a pointedly distorted rocker about tabloid culture with the title track. He and superstar tour mate Tim McGraw custom craft an arena-ready showstopper with “Feel Like a Rock Star.”
Since their “Brothers of the Sun” trek doesn’t include an Oklahoma City stop, fans probably will appreciate Chesney closing his new album with a live version of “You and Tequila,” his haunting hit with tour opener Grace Potter.