Chesney’s latest a hit

Delaney Lovett

Kenny Chesney’s newest album, “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” is the result of his yearlong hiatus from touring and the surrender of his four-time run as the CMA Entertainer of the Year, an award in which touring is a deciding factor.

This break seems to have given him a better perspective with regard to song selections, deciding to reflect on his past and unknown future with more grace and maturity than his previous albums.

One thing “Whiskey” undoubtedly offers is variety, from more traditional country twang to songs that are geared toward a live audience and those leaning away from country altogether. This wider stylistic range is new to Chesney, who, after over 30 million CD sales, can afford to take the risk. It pays off, in addition to showing fans a (not too drastically) different side of Chesney. Instead of just singing about his escape to the beach, we take a peek at what it is he’s escaping.

Chesney looks back into the days of high school football in the chart-topping track “The Boys of Fall,” with a music video featuring NFL greats Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. The track, over six minutes long, probably couldn’t have been pulled off without his sincerity and smoother-than-usual vocals. Chesney reminisces growing up in a small town where the football games were community events and the town lived vicariously through the players.

In the track “You and Tequila,” written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter, Chesney teams up with Grace Potter for a somber and longing feel: “It’s so easy to forget / The bitter taste the morning left / Swore I wouldn’t go back there again.”

“Live a Little (Love a Lot)” is a perfect example of the kind of song that is meant for the concert-going audience rather than the recorded version, one where Chesney lets loose. This is, however, more of a generic song of his with the “smell the roses” message that we’ve heard from him before in such songs as “Don’t Blink” from his 2007 album.

Similar is “Small Y’all,” where Chesney teams up with old-timer George Jones, and the resulting song is one that reflects how much fun the pair seems to have had creating it. Although not especially deep, the track is a fun listen.

Now in his 40s and after producing countless songs, it’s impressive to hear a change minor enough to keep the praise of fans but present enough to generate some new listeners.