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“No shoes, no shirt, no problems,” has been Kenny Chesney’s unofficial motto (and title for his seventh album) for much of his career.
Sure, he’s done serious songs, like “Better As A Memory,” but on his new album, “Welcome to the Fishbowl,” love and loss rule the day much more than the beach and beer.
Opening track, the sultry “Come Over,” is a booty call, but, like Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” it’s born more out of loneliness than lust. As he sings, “we’re bad for each other, but we ain’t good for anyone else,” an air of resignation and regret sets in.
Whether it’s hitting his mid-40s or other life circumstances, “Fishbowl” finds Chesney looking at life through a filter of longing, whether it be on “El Cerrito Place” or the poignant “To Get To You (55th & 3rd),” where he’s hoping for a second chance.
Hearts are broken by romance on “Fishbowl,” but they are just as likely to be torn apart by broken dreams. On “Sing ‘Em Good My Friend,” a man sells his old guitar, his only worldly possession left, in an effort to raise money for his wife’s medical bills. “We’re all gonna die someday/You won’t remember a single word I’m trying to say/It’s all a grand illusion when you think you’re in control.” On “While He Knows Who I Am,” Chesney sings as a son whose father is dying of Alzheimer’s.
Most of the songs on here are from the perspective of someone who’s been kicked around and grown weary by life. On “Makes Me Wonder,” Chesney contemplates turning a friendship into a love affair, but fear seems to get in the way. As he sings on “To Get To You”: “Love’s become a frightening thing to do.” The album ends with a live version of "You and Tequila," recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheater with Grace Potter. It's not as searing as their studio version from 2010's "Hemingway's Whiskey," but fits in beautifully with the themes on "Welcome to the Fishbowl."
It’s not all dark clouds, however. On “Feel Like A Rock Star” featuring his current tour mate Tim McGraw, life’s a party where the music is always free. On “Time Flies,” the lilting island track pays homage to getting away to the sand and the surf after a heartbreak because “time flies when you’re having rum.” Bring on the Captain Morgan.
For those who like their Chesney with a side of Corona and lime and nothing but a good time, this might not be the album for you. But for anyone who’s been kicked around a little by life and knows what it’s like to wake up with your heart pounding over a lost chance that feels it will never come this way again, welcome to the fishbowl.