Among the brightest stars in country music, Jason Aldean follows his 2010 mega-hit album, My Kinda Party, with the ready-to-rock stadiums Night Train.
Sonically, Aldean’s Georgia accent is just about the only traditionally country thing in this often heavy-rock country album. Musically, the record follows the lead of classic hard-rock bands of the 1970s and ’80s and the even heavier rock acts that followed. Maybe Metallica should go country. After Night Train, it wouldn’t be such a stretch.
Mammoth drums and distorted electric guitars power love song “When She Says Baby.” Aldean’s “Wheels Rollin’ ” revels in his American band touring life, a familiar rock theme.
“All I want is to sing my song, hearing that crowd keeps me going,” Aldean sings. And “Take a Little Ride” moves with the lustful crunch of AC/DC and Free in full, early career rock-star strut.
Aldean also finds the time to be vulnerable and a bit quieter, pouring the emotion on for the brokenhearted “I Don’t Do Lonely Well” and, the especially evocative “Night Train.”
Like it or love it, Aldean is the sound of country music today, rapping included.
For her latest album, singer-pianist Diana Krall plays an upright Steinway piano from the 1890s. The vintage keyboard, Krall’s understated, soft singing, Dennis Crouch’s acoustic bass and Marc Ribot’s acoustic guitar all contribute to the album’s saloon-after-hours mood.
T Bone Burnett — the producer behind the movie soundtracks Crazy Heart, Walk the Line and The Hunger Games, duet albums by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and Tony Bennett and k.d. lang and many more distinctive projects with major artists — guides Krall through this mostly intimate project featuring a small, close group of musicians.
Ribot picks up a ukulele for the laid-back “Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught In the Rain,” another song that summons an old-fashioned, early 20th-century vibe. Although Krall begins “You Know — I Know Everything’s Made for Love” in a near whisper, the band soon jumps to a louder volume, which leads to Krall’s piano solo romp.
“I’m a Little Mixed Up” is a bluesy stomp, mixing Big Mama Thornton and Little Richard. Changing directions, “Prairie Lullaby” is a gentle Western waltz while “Wide River to Cross” is country according to the Eagles. Krall, Burnett and the band also successfully recast the Doc Pomus-penned, Ray Charles-popularized “Lonely Avenue,” giving it a flavor all their own.
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