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…music reviews: “Dirt Road Anthem” Jason Aldean

June 23, 2011

“Dirt Road Anthem” Jason Aldean (Billboard Hot 100 #7, Week of July 2, 2011)

Either Jason or his handlers have an obvious crossover fetish. Following up a Kelly Clarkson duet with a country/rap record is about as subtle as a “Kick Me” sign. The blatant positioning of Jason Aldean as a pop star (complete with a remix to “Anthem” featuring Ludacris) seems forced and clumsy. Kelly blew the poor guy away vocally on “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” and with only a repetitive chorus to display his talents here, I have no idea if he can stand alone as an artist, based on his last couple of singles.

Now for the good news. Apart from the artist development issues at play here, the single itself is quite interesting. I love the fact that country music has finally acknowledged the vast musical soundscape outside its heavily guarded doors. There’s some serious strains of rock and even reggae in some of today’s country playlists. And this record is a welcome addition to the party.

The “rap” here remains firmly country in character. Jason’s rhymes are in no way an effort to channel Ice Cube. Think Johnny Cash with a little more hip-hop bounce. And the lyrics themselves are a pleasant, nostalgic laundry list, sort of a rural version of “Summertime” (the Fresh Prince song, not the “Porgy & Bess” standard).

Despite the obvious eye toward the mainstream, this is a right nice record.

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