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The Road and the Radio ()

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The Road and the Radio arrives at the end of a busy 2005 for Kenny Chesney. As the year opened, he followed up his 2004 blockbuster When the Sun Goes Down with the mellow Be as You Are. A few months later, he married movie star Renee Zellweger, and four months after that, she filed for divorce. Two months after that , Chesney returned with The Road and the Radio, the big, splashy proper follow-up to When the Sun Goes Down. Given such a tight, hectic schedule, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that The Road and the Radio sounds rushed, as if Chesney didn't have the chance to properly decide the right course for this album. He certainly didn't have the chance to write much -- only two of the songs here bear his credit, compared to the all-original Be as You Are and When the Sun Goes Down, which had four original compositions. Since Chesney has always demonstrated a good ear for material, this isn't a great detriment; he picks good tunes here, highlighted by the wry, lazily rocking "Living in Fast Forward." But the haphazard nature of The Road and the Radio means not only does the record fail to gel, but that its rough edges are particularly noticeable. "Rough" isn't quite the right word, though, since one thing this album is not is rough: it's a smooth, polished, commercial effort, heavy on anthemic choruses and bright surfaces. In other words, this is the poppiest that Kenny Chesney has ever sounded, from how the atmospheric keyboards on the opening title cut recall U2 to how "Summertime" is driven by a gurgling talk box guitar. This in itself wouldn't be a big problem -- it's been a long time since Chesney has pretended to be straight country, and he's very good at country-pop -- but the problem with The Road and the Radio is that the songs just aren't very memorable. The record is surely pleasant, but apart from the aforementioned cuts, plus the easy-listening Springsteen/Mellencamp tribute "In a Small Town" and the party-hearty "Beer in Mexico," the songs themselves don't rise above background music. And while that's enough to make it an enjoyable enough listen, it's also enough to break the hot streak he began with 2002's No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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