The warmth of Chesney's mellow baritone is a perfect vehicle for these mostly relaxing tunes of tropical islands and their refreshing and soothing effect on anyone who leads a hectic life. Subtitled "Songs From An Old Blue Chair," they could very well have you calling your travel agent after a listen or two.
Emphasis throughout is on care-free relaxation, not fast-paced tourist activities that can leave you more worn out after a vacation than when you started. In the title track, Chesney sings of simple pleasures, sitting in an old, blue chair, listening to the waves, playing his guitar, and soaking up the sun. It sounds irresistible, even if you can't play a guitar like he can.
While not quite a concept album, these numbers have the tropics, peace, and serenity as common threads. Each song embraces a slightly different aspect of the tropical attraction, with a bit of overlap but not so much as to be repetitive and boring. It's all kept interesting with a good mix of melodies, lively but primarily minimal instrumental work with an occasional hint of island rhythms, and enough tropical topics to write about at length.
Of course, there are the inevitable comparisons with Jimmy Buffet, the aging, fun-loving performer who built a career on singing about the tropics and the sheer fun they offer. But Chesney sings about more than fun, also looking at the restorative powers of spending time in the sun.
A best-selling country singer, Chesney adds to his substantial repertoire by reaching far outside his usual music with these laid-back gems, gleaned from personal experiences. He wrote or co-wrote all 12 of the songs.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
They were a jam band before jam bands existed, a tight, crafty unit that featured jazzy instrumental excursions, flutes next to country guitars, and lyrics that celebrated open roads, good women, and searchin' for rainbows. This 33-song, two-disc set that focuses on their prime in the mid-'70s, gives them their due, and is a strong argument for revisiting the band. Songs like "Can't You See" and "Fire on the Mountain" benefit from pristine production that reveals the level of sophistication of the band's layered arrangements.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
The jazz trio is almost elevated to a new art form in this incredibly hot set, due to be released on Feb. 22. Alexander's joyful jazz chops on piano are crisp and complex, yet remarkably light and energetic. He's backed primarily by bassist Hassan Shakur and drummer Mark Taylor, with Robert Thomas, Jr., occasionally on percussion. Alexander can dazzle listeners with his syncopation and upbeat style one minute, then get down low and dirty with some bawdy blues and even a hint of Gospel. The songs are a blend of Alexander's originals and his unique take on some familiar and lesser-known stand-bys.
- TOM HENRY
These Greenskeepers used to work as golf caddies - hence the duo's name - but they have traded in golf clubs for dance clubs and are all about laying down a smooth carpet of tasty grooves on vocal and instrumental tracks that incorporate elements of rock, R&B, and funk. "Man In The House" adds a taste of indie-rock, while "Filipino Phil" echoes the sounds of garage bands, and there's even a quirky remake of Christopher Cross's "Sailing." "Pleetch" is eclectic without being a stylistic mess. Instead, its range of influences give the disc an attractive musical diversity.
- RICHARD PATON