Chesney bookends The Big Revival with two stories about entertainers preaching their own gospel. The stomping opening title track tells of a mountainside tent meeting led by a Pentecostal minister ("Praise the Lord and pass me a copperhead"). But the Word is much more personal on the album's closer, "If This Bus Could Talk." One of a handful of tracks that Chesney co-wrote, the song chronicles the artist's career on the road. "Twenty years of summers, and I hope it never ends," he sings, looking back on a travelogue of hopes, heartaches and high points. It's an intimate, sentimental love letter to all his fans -- even those who haven't been on the journey since that first night in 1993 when Chesney opened for Patty Loveless.
Kenny Chesney Teases Music Video For New Song ‘American Kids’: Watch
Chesney is a gifted entertainer, but his greatest talent may be his ability to make his music sound easy and effortless. He delivers songs with a practiced casualness that never veers into sloppiness. At times, it's almost too easy to miss the homespun messages he espouses on tracks like "Don't It," a song about how life controls you, not the other way around. And the chugging lead single, "American Kids" -- Chesney's first No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart since "Come Over" in August 2012 -- captures the zeitgeist of American youth in a way that John Mellencamp once owned.
Chesney isn't as contemplative here as he was on 2010's stellar Hemingway's Whiskey -- and, sadly, his new duet with Grace Potter, "Wild Child," is no match for their Grammy Award-nominated 2011 hit, "You and Tequila" (which reached No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs chart). But he's far from coasting. At 46, Chesney knows exactly what works for him, and The Big Revival serves his faithful flock a generous helping of country salvation with all the breeziness of a long holiday weekend.
This article first appeared in the Sept. 27th issue of Billboard.