Iâ€™m sorry to say that â€œWelcome to the Fishbowl,â€ Kenny Chesneyâ€™s 15th studio album released June 19, doesnâ€™t add any new classics to the Chesney canon and comes as a bit of a disappointment after several really great albums over the past decade.
Chesney is credited as co-writer on three of the 12 tracks, which is fairly typical, as he does not write most of the music he records.
This is not a terrible album, itâ€™s just not memorable. Chesney doesnâ€™t broach any new territory here. On the songâ€™s title track (which was co-written by Chesney), he laments the lost privacy that accompanies fame: â€œEverybodyâ€™s business is everybodyâ€™s business, and thatâ€™s big business now / Weâ€™re all in here together and we canâ€™t get out / Welcome to the fishbowl.â€
The best tracks are the upbeat, fun â€œFeel Like a Rock Star,â€ with Tim McGraw, and â€œEl Cerrito Place,â€ which was written by singer-songwriter Keith Gattis. In the latter song, Chesney searches for his lost loverâ€™s footprints in the sand: â€œDid you hear the ocean singing, baby did you sing along? While you danced out in the water to some old forgotten song.â€
â€œCome Over,â€ which like â€œRock Starâ€ was also released as a single, is a solid, standard Chesney song, as is â€œAlways Gonna Be You.â€ Neither, however, have the poignant emotional resonance of tracks like â€œIâ€™m Aliveâ€ or â€œWay Down Here,â€ from his 2008 album â€œLucky Old Sun.â€
Of course it wouldnâ€™t be a Kenny Chesney album without a song about being from a small town. Here, he goes anthropomorphic with â€œIâ€™m a Small Town,â€ in which we hear about trains, bikes, first kisses and last home runs. This is not to be confused with â€œIn a Small Townâ€ or â€œWhere I Come From,â€ which were both better songs he has recorded about small towns.
Over the past few years Chesney has carried the tiki torch for Jimmy Buffet in extolling the virtues of boats, beaches and drinking rum. He delivers here with â€œTime Flies,â€ a fun little song, but itâ€™s no â€œBeer in Mexico,â€ much less â€œMargaritaville.â€
Chesney also continues his tradition of including songs to bum out the listener. These include â€œSing â€˜Em Good My Friend,â€ about an old man whose wife of many years is hooked up to a machine waiting to die. Itâ€™s a beautiful song with a really nice hook, but not a summer song to rock out to. Also depressing is â€œWhile He Still Knows Who I Am,â€ about a dying father suffering from Alzheimerâ€™s or some type of dementia (insert Debbie Downer sound drop here).
The album concludes with an unnecessary live version of â€œYou and Tequila,â€ the hauntingly beautiful duet with Grace Potter and the best song from his last album, â€œHemingwayâ€™s Whiskey.â€ Recorded live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, itâ€™s a good rendition (except for the audience sing along at the end), but it felt like it was included just to capitalize on the success of the previous album.
All in all, the album features a few nice songs, but this is far from Kenny Chesneyâ€™s best work.