Based on the discussions (pro or con) for Jason Aldean’s #1 Billboard hit “Try That In A Small Town,” it’s easy to see that while Aldean stands behind that song’s message, he would maybe have picked a different court house to film his music video for the song given the history of that place in Columbia, TN. Incendiary as the video became (and the cause de celeb that it stirred amongst X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook conservative influencers — and the reason the song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 something none of his other considerably more popular songs had ever sniffed at), the song itself wasn’t dissimilar from several of the songs Jason Aldean has recorded throughout his career. It is a proud of small town living and life and pining to get back to the values many small to mid-size towns had through the Reagan Administration of the 1980s.
On Highway Desperado, Jason’s eleventh album, he brings those themes around from the beginning with “Tough Crowd” and “Let Your Boys Be Country.” The first one celebrates the kind of hard-working, beer-drinking, country folks he’s long courted, though those fans were often ones who grew up on the 80s and 90s hard rock riffs than Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings rural rhythms. All this is to say that Most of what’s on Highway Desperado is what we’ve come to expect from Jason Aldean throughout the years: hard-rock influenced anthems and stances like “Try That In A Small Town” to midtempo miss you girl songs like “”Breakup Breakdown” or Whiskey Drink” and kiss off moody anthems like “Whose Rearview.”
While he’s always been at his best when muscling up the rock or blending hip hop beats with said rock guitars and mixing in a little twangy steel guitars, Aldean is adept at many modern country sounds as “Changing Bars,” “Get Away From You,” “Knew You’d Come Around” and “From This Beer On” suggest on Highway Desperado. The album closes out with the title track featuring an ear-pleasing moody melody backing up lyrics about a guy who leans into his highway vagabond musical artist ways (the metaphorical lyrics suggesting the love he has for the life he leads as a touring musician. There may have been controversy (organic or manufactured, you decide) surrounding Highway Desperado’s lead radio single “Try That In A Small Town” but when you take the album as a whole body of work, it is exactly the kind of album you’d expect from Jason Aldean. For better or worse, he is who he is. He will continue to write and record songs that suit the sound that was built by songs like “Hicktown” and “She’s Country” and while there’s no “You Make It Easy” here, the album is likable enough but Highway Desperado won’t bring a new gaggle of fans though it feels like Jason Aldean is content to keep delivering music for the folks who already like and love everything he does.