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The Road and the Radio’ not a very exciting ride

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 17, 2005

On the first listen through Kenny Chesney’s latest release, “The Road and the Radio,” the overlying themes of loss and soul searching are hard to miss. However, it might be a little easier to miss some of the songs, as many on the disc seem to fade into the background instead of popping out at listeners like the previous work of the famous pop-country artist.

“The Road and the Radio” debuts on the heels of a tumultuous 2005 for Chesney. In the notes for the title track of the album, he writes, “no matter what has gone on in my life, there have been two constant things over the past 12 years, and that’s been the road and the radio.”

After listening to entertainment news in the past few months, it’s obvious why these are the only two constants in his life. While he continued to spend months on the road touring through out the year, he also dealt with the struggles of a short-lived, high-profile marriage to actress Renée Zellweger (whose role in Jerry Maguire was the inspiration for Chesney’s song, “You had me at Hello”), which she annulled after only four months. Since then, Chesney has been working overtime to put his life back together, while at the same time recording and promoting his latest musical effort.

One of the things country fans have come to know since the release of “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” in 2002, is that whenever Chesney releases a new CD, he will catch them with the first single and hold tight to his fans from then on out. This reputation may be thrown out the window with his newest record. Although the first single, “Who You’d Be Today” is a touching tribute to a lost friend, it fails to attract the same type of attention as the singles from his other recent albums, including “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” and “When the Sun Goes Down.”

Although Chesney sings a lot about lost loves on his new album, he also holds true to a few loves that are still a part of his life – summer and the simpler life that can be found when you head south. Faster tunes like “Beer in Mexico” and “Summertime” bring Chesney back as country’s king of the islands. But even in these songs, the themes of loss and searching aren’t completely forgotten. In “Beer in Mexico,” he sings of his plans to “let the warm air melt these blues away,” and questions his life plan – “Maybe I’ll settle down, get married / Or stay single and stay free / Which road I travel / Is still a mystery to me.”

The second track on “The Road and the Radio,” “Living in Fast forward,” gives an interesting description of Chesney as a “hillbilly rock star out of control.” With a lazy rock tempo, its sound resembles some of Chesney most well-known songs and may be in the lineup for the album’s next single.

Until Tuesday night, Chesney was the Country Music Association’s reigning Entertainer of the Year. Although he was once again nominated for Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year, he lost out on both awards to one of his former tour mates and friend, Australian country singer Keith Urban.

In a recent interview with People Magazine, Chesney shared his belief that an album “should take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride. I’ve been on one.” “The Road and the Radio” does seem to take listeners on a ride through Chesney’s emotions – the ride just might not be quite as exciting as he had hoped it would be.