Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun

Kenny Chesney
Lucky Old Sun


With Lucky Old Sun, Chesney returns with his 13th studio album just 13 months after the release of his platinum album, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates. As the reigning entertainer of the year of both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association, Chesney accelerated his career in the early part of the decade by virtue of his increased touring labors and the concerted effort to tap into the listening pleasures of his audience. Equal parts Garth Brooks and Jimmy Buffett, he’s parlayed his penchant for theatrical concert shows and life-affirming anthems into a career unmatched by his contemporaries.

Chesney has stood as the genre’s ambassador for the last five years, but his artistry in that period has seemed mired in the same routines. Too reliant on tunes revolving around booze and the beach, or saddled with songs about life as a troubadour musician, he’s often struggled to make a true artistic impression that stretches him both creatively and personally.  On Lucky Old Sun, he lapses back into the island rhythms that have been a steady influence on his recent musical output, and the man and the music remain stuck at a crossroads.

Chesney turns inward in ways that have been hinted at recently (the laconic rhythms of 2005’s Be As You Are, for example), but never fully explored on record.  Few uptempo numbers are included here, demonstrating the deliberation that Chesney endured in the midst of recording the album.  The first single, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven,” (with backing from Bob Marley’s band, The Wailers) demonstrates energy, and its a fun anecdote about a wayward young man who just can’t follow the preaching and the teaching of a man of the cloth. Chesney infuses “Ten with a Two” with personality, and it also provides a welcome spark that’s missing from the rest of the album. But the calypso-laced tune has a warmed-over subject material (a country boy’s beer goggles lead him astray) prove that he can only be a truly compelling vocalist when his material and musical choices are first-rate.

Pairings with some of music’s most notable stars help boost Lucky Old Sun, preventing the album from being too dark and drab and providing Chesney a chance to rise above the melancholy and mediocrity. Dave Matthews joins him on the lead track, the laidback “I’m Alive,” a positive testament to resilience that would’ve been equally effective as an album closer.  Chesney and guest Willie Nelson sound as refreshing as ever on the pop standard “Lucky Old Sun,” a song that benefits from the slower tempos set down by producer Buddy Cannon.  And on “Down the Road,” a duet with Mac McNally, the duo delves into the circle-of-life story with sweet sincerity.  These collaborations keep Chesney from being mired in his own introspection and give him a purpose and interpretive precision.

Chesney’s more brooding and unabashedly moody than ever before, but these tendencies lead to monotony at certain stages of Lucky Old Sun. He sounds tepid on tracks including the non-descript “Way Down Here” and the overly sentimental “Spirit of a Storm,” and the ballad “Boats” never shows much of a pulse.  Although these songs are a more mature, complete portrait of Chesney as a person, Chesney the artist lacks a connection to the material, echoing his personal restlessness and need for reflection.

The mellow atmosphere of Lucky Old Sun is agreeable, but contributes to the notion that Chesney is at the mercy of his song selection. Without the natural vocal talent of his contemporaries, he relies heavily on meaningful material met with smart production choices.  The modern-day cowboy is capable of wistful, melancholic moments (consider 2002’s “A Lot of Things Different,” penned by famed songwriters Bill Anderson and Dean Dillon), but the sheer number of those moments here hinder its cause: to show Chesney as a flesh-and-bone human being behind the fun-and-sun demeanor.

Although his legacy will be as one of the most popular road warriors in country music history, Chesney’s music is sometimes simply a vehicle to continue his touring juggernaut.  While Lucky Old Sun disproves that notion, and his humble honesty on these eleven songs (the bonus album features four live tracks) is admirable, he’d be better served with a little more energy next time to match the ebbs and flows that show his true personality and passion.

Click to hear Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun.


  1. While I wrote it completely different than you did, my review basically came to the same conclusion. I think “Down The Road” and “Ten With A Two” are the obvious single choices.

  2. I heard a few of these songs on his CMT Insider interview and based on those few, it sounds like a very depressing album. This review only adds to that. I’m glad I’m not the only person who thinks he releases albums just so he can tour!

  3. My review is one star higher. I think it was smart and exciting to see Kenny shifting from his wilr side for a change. This album actually reminds me of Jamey Johnson’s situation, they both now have great albums with delicate material and no matter what singles they choose they are at the mercy of critical reception and fan response. I really disagree with judgment based off of singles and radioplay. Of course my judgements comes form a more fan based, contemporary point of view as well.

  4. Yesterday KC himself had a whole hour on the local radio show to himself and introduced and played each song of the new album and explained the stories behind each. It was the most boring hour ever on radio. I believe he did this because Detroit is one of his biggest stops for the last four years running (son’t know why). But anyway none of the songs done it for me.
    I am tired of the calypso sound if I wanted to hear reggea or island music I would go on a vacation. Is voice country, his lyrics mostly written for him some country, his music and sound not country and I’m tired of hearing him three times in one hour, it’s way too much and it is a waste when there is so much real country talent to be played.

  5. First impression: I listened to the first few songs last night before I went to bed and wasn’t sure when one song ended and the next began. I don’t mind melancholy songs, but some variation would be preferable.

  6. vp…you must listen to same station I do! lol!! My station did the same thing and I turned it off after the first 2 songs because it made me sleepy! The stations I listen to plays him way too much and that’s why I dislike his music so much! He is just plain boring to me. Never have understood his popularity at all.

  7. The whole “beach cowboy” thing is tired now.
    Enough already with the stories of sand, boats, and drinks. Maybe it’s great if you actually live in The Keys?

    With every album he digs himself deeper into that “one trick pony” character.
    C’mon Kenny …. been there, heard it.

  8. I just said something similar to this in another thread. I believe Kenny has a long and deep respect for country music and probably has a great CD collection. But his songs are all starting to sound the same to me. And the second I hear one with an obvious Jimmy Buffet influence, I can’t even make it through anymore.

  9. I dont really care much for “Everybody Wanna Go To Heaven” and havent heard anything else to prompt me to purchase this album. I must say though, for my taste this is just another horribly done album cover.

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