I am not as impressed with Jason Aldean’s latest album as I have been with his previous music, but I am still impressed. On Night Train, Aldean delivers some fun, sexy and rocking music, but I don’t identify with the songs from Night Train as much as I did Aldean’s previous album, My Kind Of Party. In that album, it was as though Aldean climbed up into my head; took out my thoughts; and set them to music. On Train, there are far less frequent of these type of numbers.
‘The Only Way I Know’ is one of these songs. It’s a typical country tune about working hard; giving your all; and doing your best. What make this song have such an impact on me is the last line of the first verse:
We just figured that’s how it was/
and everybody else was just like us
As a child, my worldview was limited to what I knew, or, more appropriately, what I didn’t know. I assumed that the rest of the world had the same type of attitude that my friends and family had. That what we learned about respect for each other, having pride in ourselves and a job well accomplished was just the way of the world. It wasn’t until a grew up a bit that I learned different. That I learned about other world views. Some as good or better than mine and some that are not. But its fascinating to me how I just took for granted that attitudes were the same everywhere when I was young because that was all I knew then.
‘I Don’t do Lonely Well’, while not a song I would identify with, I expect will be a hit because of so many others who will. This tune tells of longing for that partner who’s left ya. What’s most notable about it is the lack of alcohol in the lyrics–a usual suspect in these kinds of songs. Instead, the singer croons about huggin’ pillows in place of your pard’:
I lay some pillows down/
To wrap my arms around/
I pretend that I’m holding you/
I know its sad, but it’s what I do
While it does stray a little bit into teen soap melodrama during the bridge, it’s a short enough stray, so that it doesn’t take away from the rest of the song.
‘Black Tears’, while a song which still fewer people may identify with, is achingly haunting with its slow, zydeco style. Aldean sings about a stripper/exotic dancer who is in despair over the state of her life. This mourning of her life leaves her crying black tears; literally and figuratively. While the idea of mascara running down your face brings up images of camp, what steers the song away from that is the lyrics manage to have an everyman/woman/where appeal. The time could be today or the old west. It could be a big city or a backwater sleezoon. But mostly, it could be any of us.
Everyone, at one time or another has felt the despair about the state of their life that’s conveyed in the song. Everyone has those moments of hopelessness that come. Some are going though that right now. They will be the ones for whom this song has the most impact. For those of you in happier places, who’ve made it through your tough moments (and if we all hold on long enough, we will make it through them), be sure to keep your hankies handy ‘cuz if you think on it too much you’ll be crying black tears as well.
The song on the album that I think will cause the most contention among fans is ‘1994.’ This hip-hop style song is a light-hearted shout-out to country artist Joe Diffie. Diffie fans, especially, will get a kick out of the way Aldean weaves so many titles and themes of Joe’s music into the song. They will also be ticked off as to how those themes are presented. ‘1994’, for them, will also represent all that’s wrong with country music today; moving away from the traditional sound. To these fans, we should remember that country music has always had outlaws. There have always been people who have pushed the sound to new places. Ever since the Carter family picked up their instruments, country music has been changing and growing. Drawing in fans with its new and varied sound while always keeping the themes of family, fun and love at its core. One of my all time favorite country songs is ‘Crackers’ by Barbara Mandrell. You listen to that today, and what you hear as the instrumental is clearly not what most folks think of as ‘traditional.’
As a fan of Joe Diffie myself, I really enjoyed the ode to this country music master. I also enjoyed the subtler theme of recollecting your past years that is part of the song as well. I felt that this tune worked better than ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ due to the lightness of the song as well as it sticking with one genre of music throughout the whole tune.
Making a visual impression on Night Train is the CD booklet. Years ago, I reviewed Taylor Swift’s Fearless album and was amazed at how that booklet transformed photos into art. Night Train comes in a close second on this. Check out the below for an example.
On top of this, you get a fair amount of photos of Jason Aldean’s handsome mug, too. But rather than just be glamor shots or run-off-the-mill promotionals, the photographer took some great care in composing something that’s a little more visually interesting; that’s a little bit more art. They created a really stunning booklet to go along with some pretty darn good music.