After reading Matt’s favourable review of Hemingway’s Whiskey on Roughstock I thought I’d go out and buy a copy. I’m a longtime Chesney fan, and figured it’s gotta be good. Well, $12.99 + Canadian Tax later I’m rethinking that a bit.
The album hype is overrated, for one thing. Chesney has a degree in marketing, and the whole idea of tying himself to Hemingway thematically as some kind of artistic adventurer whose soul is on the Islands is flimsy at best. In any case, if writing skill were the main parameter this album falls far short, with insipid filler from David Lee Murphy and other songwriting stalwarts crowding out most attempts at actual country-music style storytelling on boring, popped-out, formulaic tracks like “Live a Little,” and “Reality.”
Hemingway’s Whiskey is missing the magic of earlier Chesney back when he was still country.
Chesney’s voice sounds good on this album, anyway. “7 days,” and “Tequila and You,” are reasonably engaging, melodically-pleasing tunes, while “Boys of Fall,” is by far the strongest track and one of Chesney’s best overall. “Tequila and You,” is a pleasing duet track, with amazing vocals from Grace Potter, but almost crushing in the familiarity of its theme, particularly for Chesney, who included another song about tequila on his Road and the Radio album about how “tequila loves me even if you don’t.” Lyrically that was a stronger and more compelling/believable song. Yeah.
In sum, I found the album a disappointment, with very predictable guitar phrasing, total lack of any fiddles, pop-melange-blah production and generally transparent attempt to sell as many records as possible. The addition of the “Small Y’all,” came across embarrassing and gauche as well, but maybe I’m just not much of a George Jones fan.