Luke Bryan, 'Tailgates & Tanlines'

78 Billboard Rating

At the outset of his third album, Tailgates & Tanlines, Luke Bryan lets listeners know that he's got "a little boom in my big truck"-and with good reason. The Georgia-born country singer is clearly on the ascent, having notched a pair of No. 1s on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart from 2009's Doin' My Thing. Tailgates & Tanlines pushes things up another notch creatively. It helps that Bryan co-wrote eight of the set's 13 songs. You can feel a clear and passionate connection to his muse here, as well as a droll wit and cheeky grin that's all over first single "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)." It's also apparent on image-rich biographical tracks like the ringing "Harvest Time" and the stomping "Muckalee Creek Water." Elsewhere, the song "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" is a soaring and different take on the typical farewell kiss-off, while "Been There, Done That" and "I Know You're Gonna Be There" wrap up the pain of lost love in macho defiance. Bryan is still doin' his thing, but he's getting better at it each time out.

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