Though Jake Owen found success with his previous blend of country/rock stomp on hits like “Eight Second Ride” and “Tell Me” off of 2009’s Easy Does It, he was left seeking a more personal sound when working on his new project, Barefoot Blue Jean Night. Teaming up with Producers Tony Brown (George Strait, Reba McEntire), Joey Moi (Nickelback) and Rodney Clawson (writer of such hits as Big & Rich’s “Lost In This Moment”), Barefoot Blue Jean Night takes a more reflective approach than its two predecessors, offering a more intimate look at the singer.
Crisply produced, Barefoot Blue Jean Night is tied together with radio-ready choruses, hook-laden electric guitar melodies and songs about women, life’s lessons and a few good times. On the lead single and pop-leaning title track, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” the Florida native’s slight southern drawl sounds at home on the summer beach song amidst acoustic guitars, subtle drum programming and a couple well-placed Whoa-oh-ohs in the chorus. We were shining like lighters in the dark in the middle of a rock show, Jake sings with attention-grabbing imagery and a touch of nostalgia. The laid-back, standout song “Heaven” opens with sentimental piano as his smooth delivery intertwines thoughtfully with the notes. Well, there’s a place that they call heaven/ Just south of town way up on a hill, he sings with easygoing measure on the sexy love song. This same seasoned experience also extends to other songs like the traditional-based, “The Journey Of Your Life,” where Jake recalls his Grandfather’s words, singing possibly the album’s best line, On the straight and narrow path you need to learn to bend.
While Barefoot Blue Jean Night succeeds in providing a few softer looks at Jake, this is not to say the collection doesn’t include a healthy dose of amped-up guitar work and banging drums. Toward the end of the album, the classic rock-sounding “Nobody Feelin’ No Pain” feels similar to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” as Jake cuts his way through distorted guitars and tasteful, bluesy piano leads to tell the story of how the hotel on a tour stop turned into a full-blown party. Well, 2 a.m., room 509/ We were all still good to go/ Well, we damn near blew the speaker out/ Of that alarm clock radio, Jake sings with a self-assured and confortable delivery. On the up-tempo, country/rock “Wide Awake,” (written by Brett Eldredge, David Lee Murphy and Rivers Rutherford) Jake passionately sings, And I’m wide awake/ Thinking ‘bout you baby/ I’m wide awake/ And I’m going crazy, through the chorus over big guitars and a strong piano melody.
Barefoot Blue Jean Night features more songs written by Nashville songwriters than on Jake’s previous albums. However, Jake did co-write the closing song, “The One That Got Away” with Dallas Davidson and Jimmy Ritchey. Here, he opens up about a long gone lover that still haunts him, singing, We wrote our names in the sand/ Under a star-soaked sky/ But they disappeared just like she did/ With the rising tide. Jake’s personal touch on this song is evident, but his dedication to developing his sound is felt throughout the album as it works to tie the entire set together. Barefoot Blue Jean Night succeeds in this way as a rich collection that provides the step needed to display Jake’s substantial growth as an artist.
Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is one of this summer’s biggest songs – have you used it as the soundtrack to your beach weekend?