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Music reviews: Kenny Chesney, bluesman Gitlo Lee

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 12:01 am

“Life on a Rock,” Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney, who will perform in concert May 16 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, opens his new album, “Life On A Rock,” with the hit “Pirate Flag,” a rowdy beach-bum anthem reminiscent of his many fun-in-the-sun party songs of the last dozen years.

While most of the rest of “Life on a Rock” references island life, instead of rocking out, the songs are about unplugging from the chaos of the daily grind and reflecting on quieter pleasures.

Writing four songs by himself, and co-writing four more, this is the East Tennessee singer's most personal album since 2005's “Be As You Are (Songs From A Blue Chair).”

There are light moments, as in the duet with Willie Nelson on “Coconut Tree,” but the focus is on off-beat, real-life characters (“Lindy”) and on taking a moment to count one's blessings (the title song).

It's a bold move, considering a new crop of country rockers are selling millions of albums modeled on Chesney's pounding arena rock sound. But, to his credit, he follows his muse and offers up an album that exposes his weathered soul. The result is as appealing as it is surprising.

Gitlo Lee, “Comin' Out the Hole”

Gitlo Lee sings with glee, whether the subject is beer, large women, collard greens, silk sheets, the Okefenokee Swamp or coffee in the morning — one of his euphemisms for sex.

Lee covers a lot of ground here, 12 bars at a time, and it's understandable if he's trying to make up for lost decades. The barroom bluesman from Georgia is in his 60s, but “Comin' Out the Hole” is his first album.

It was worth the wait.

While Lee has been touring the Chitlin' Circuit for nearly half a century, he retains an enthusiasm for performing that's evident in his commanding tenor, and he delivers even his most corny lyrics with relish.

“I love me a woman so big, when she backs up she goes, 'Beep, beep, beep, beep,'” he sings on “Big Legged Women.”

By comparison, Lee's guitar playing is restrained but carries a sting, and Adrian Boudreaux supplies frequent and welcomed keyboard solos. Best among Lee's 10 original tunes are three that recall 1970s Memphis soul, and everything swings, even the ballads.

“Comin' Out the Hole” might rank as the debut of the year — among sexagenarians at least.