Kenny Chesney - Hemingway's Whiskey
By: Matt Bjorke
Hemingway’s Whiskey premiered on Kenny Chesney’s ‘No Shoes Radio’ web radio Thursday, September 23 and it allowed me to listen to the whole album in its entirety before the physical copy of the album was sent to the Roughstock offices. Lead single “The Boys of Fall” started the radio program off and as the lead single from the album the song showcased what helped make Chesney a star in the first place, his ability to emote relatable lyrics. “The Boys of Fall” may ultimately be about time as a football player but in reality it’s about having a belief system, brotherhood and friendship and faith all wrapped up into one four minute song. “Live A Little, Love A Lot” is a hook-laden, radio ready up-tempo number (a future #1 hit) that is intended to remind people to not take themselves or life to seriously and to remember to have a good time.
A Post-millennial Kenny Chesney album wouldn’t be complete without having a song that recalls the beach. That’s what “Coastal” does for Hemingway’s Whiskey. It’s a cute little tempo-filled song that helps the album keep a flow. “You And Tequila” was written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter and features Grace Potter. It’s one of the album’s ‘buzzworthy’ songs and the pairing with Grace Potter was particularly a smart decision. This ‘rock’ vocalist could really work well in today’s country music with her ‘angelic’ voice. Who knows if Kenny will release it to radio but it might have a chance to sneak up the charts. The production is understated and allows the fantastic lyric and vocal paring shine, just the way it should have been.
“Seven Days A Thousand Times” is a laid-back, melodic ballad about a short period of time in a man’s life and how that short time stuck with the man years after it happened. Everyone, whether they like Kenny Chesney or not, will certainly relate to the lyrics and meaning of the song, which is to say that we all have memories that stick out more than the rest of our life. “Small Y’all” is a remake that was previously recorded by George Jones and Randy Travis. This song is a fun little track that is the most traditional song on the record and it features George Jones on it as well. Fans of the early Chesney records will certainly enjoy this song.
“Where I Grew Up” may fall into the small town, nostalgia-filled songs (or “The House That Built Me”) that have been all the rage these days but there’s something about Kenny Chesney’s new tune that makes it stand out more than I had expected it to. Written by Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace and Neil Thrasher the song just feels as comfortable as an old pair of Wrangler jeans. Kenny used to write quite a bit more than he does these days so it’s always interesting to find songs with his name on the record and that’s what “Reality” is, a song about escaping into ‘a fantasy’ to ‘break free’ from life. It’s not much different than some of his other tunes yet I think in today’s ADD society the song may wind up being a big ole radio hit.
As somebody who has had a ‘restless spirit’ and wondered about ‘is the grass greener’ somewhere else, I can really relate to “Round and Round.” To me there’s no doubting that this one will be released to country radio at some point as it has an interesting (albeit not very country) melody, the same thing that can be said about “Somewhere With You,” a tune with tasty guitar fills and a vocal melody that will likely surprise some people. The vocal phrasing is ‘fast’ for a Kenny Chesney song and it feels slightly like a late 1980s pop/rock hit.
The album closes-up with “Hemingway’s Whiskey, “ a song written by legendary songwriter Guy Clark (with Joe Leathers and Ray Stephenson). The anchor of Kenny’s album of the same name, the song manages to not be ‘bombastic’ or much different than Clark’s own version from 2009. It’s the kind of song that really needs more than one or two listens to fully digest but the gist of the song is to have ‘take aways’ from people you meet in your life and to never lose the zeal for life. Hemingway’s Whiskey is a record that finds Kenny Chesney feeling recharged. It’s a record that runs the gamut of human emotion and paints stories the way Hemingway’s novels did.