Life on a Rock follows its 2012 predecessor Welcome to the Fishbowl quickly -- very quickly, appearing a mere ten months later. Why did Chesney rush out this record? It could be a tacit acknowledgment that Chesney wasn't entirely engaged on Welcome to the Fishbowl, an album that was thoroughly professional not only in its production but in its construction: Chesney barely wrote a thing on the record, choosing to slide into the role of superstar singer, acting like a rock star and living under a spotlight. It was fine but slight, somewhat lost in its own gleaming reflection, leaving little lasting impression.
Though much of Kenny Chesney’s career has been built on songs about beach life, his last two albums, 2012’s Welcome to the Fishbowl and 2010’s Hemingway’s Whiskey, did a fair amount of veering slightly away from that, if never completely, carving out both anthemic and moody places not as connected to the sun and sand. Those albums might be good proof that he’s not a one-note artist. Then again, he more often seems perfectly happy being one-note, at least if that means spending time with his favorite beach tropes.
In 2005, stadium country king Kenny Chesney released a quietly thoughtful album called “Be As You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair)” that featured some of his best songwriting to that date. Chesney returns to that reflective, often acoustic, place for “Life on a Rock,” out Tuesday, and again hits a high-water mark. “Rock” finds a pirate looking at 45 and instead of disappearing hazily into a bottle of rum, he takes sobering stock.
IGGY AND THE STOOGES “Ready to Die” (Fat Possum) Iggy Pop circles back four decades with “Ready to Die,” collaborating anew with the surviving Stooges who made “Raw Power,” the 1973 album that was belatedly recognized as a protopunk landmark. “Ready to Die” is more historically self-conscious than “Raw Power”; no doubt deliberately, it runs less than a minute longer than the 34-minute “Raw Power” LP. But its attitude stays brash.