Country music has always been considered the music of the people. Its stories of loving and leaving, lying and cheating have long been a staple of American music. Some might say that the genre has swayed slightly from what made it so relatable with the focus being on the early twenties party crowd more than before. There have been some great songs lately, but the true storytelling seems to be missing. However, Country music has been known as “three chords and the truth” for as long as anyone can remember. It is good to hear an album that gets back to that with songs about real life experiences.
Released on November 3, 2023, Jason Aldean’s latest album, Highway Desperado, is one of those records. His eleventh overall, and consisting of 14 songs, it starts out with a song obviously written with the live show in mind. Entitled “Tough Crowd,” it pays tribute to all those who spend their hard earned money to attend a show. A strong opening, it clings to the traditional thought of being ‘of the people’ by mentioning them almost by name. Additionally, there is also a point in this song where you can see yourself and identify with the singer almost as if he were talking about you.
Beyond this, there is also the sure to be fan-favorite, “Let Your Boys Be Country.” Straight forward, and a guaranteed hit, it is about letting your boys be just that, boys. Let them play in the dirt. Let them do all the crazy things that teach them how to be tough. This in mind, the consistent theme on Highway Desperado is everyday problems and experiences. In truth, this is exactly what you would expect from an established artist like Jason Aldean.
For example tracks like “Knew You’d Come Around,” “Whose Rearview,” “Breakup Breakdown” and “Rather Watch You” all speak to those who have lived a little. It is for those who are lucky enough to know what it’s like to find that person you were meant to be with and realize what you have even if it’s too late. These are followed up by songs like “Get Away From You,” “Whiskey Drink,” “Changing Bars,” and “From This Beer On” which harken back to the days of drowning your sorrows in a drink of choice. This is while “I’m Over You” offers a refreshing take on that moment where you know they are the one.
Overall, Highway Desperado is exactly what the genre of Country music needed. Most songs today are about trucks and partying, but with this album there is not a sugar shaker or white claw in sight. Simply put, it is just real feelings and real consequences about real life. Well done, Aldean continues to move forward strongly. And this is all in spite of the controversy behind the single “Try That In A Small Town” which had a selection of media try to position it as racist and offensive. In fact, they tried their best to cancel Jason Aldean. Thankfully the Country music fans rallied behind the song and its true meaning of standing together for each other, having each other’s back, and being united which resulted in more album sales than anyone attended. Who saw that coming!
All in all, it is truly refreshing to see songwriting get back to the three chords and the truth. Jason Aldean and the boys have certainly come through with a record that is great from first note to the last, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Highway Desperado 5 out of 5 stars.
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