Fueled by a blue-collar mentality and electric guitar crunch, Jason Aldean’s fifth CD, Night Train, roars with the sound of small town America. The album, which is available now, builds on the singer’s multi-platinum, 2011 CMA Album of the Year, My Kinda Party, with 15 new songs loaded full of strong hooks and heartland themes.
Night Train plays like another step in the development of the ‘Aldean Sound.’ Opening up with “This Nothin’ Town,” Jason immediately displays the same sort of county road pride he showed in songs like his No. 1 hit, “Fly Over States,” from My Kinda Party. Like he says in the album’s hard-rocking and insanely-catchy lead single, “Take A Little Ride,” Anyone from the heartland will know what I’m talkin’ about. And that’s a great point, since a major part of the sound here features thick, distorted power chords and groove-heavy riffs reminiscent of an amped-up John Mellencamp or adrenaline-pushing Bryan Adams. However, Jason’s approach is more seasoned and wiser on Night Train than ever before. The palm-muted, “When She Says Baby,” shows off a well-timed, rhythmic chorus while the mid-tempo, “Drink One For Me,” subtly delivers the touching story of a soldier missing home.
Gravel roads and flatbed Fords make an appearance in the nostalgic “Feel That Again,” but the focus is less on country boy anthems this time around. Instead, more attention is given to the human condition. “The Only Way I Know,” which features touring buddies Luke Bryan and Eric Church, extols the virtues of the tough-as-nails working class. On the piano-based power ballad, “I Don’t Do Lonely Well,” and the self-deprecating “Walking Away,” Jason shows off the ability to work melodramatic, pop-laced hooks, singing on the former, I can get up and face the day just fine all by myself. The title track, “Night Train,” confirms Jason among the best at capturing the sexy chemistry of young love as the song’s characters chase trains under the moonlight to the sound of charging steel.
Where Jason really shines, however, is on the moodier, darker pieces like the amazingly vivid, “Black Tears.” Hinting at the ghostly, ’70s hard rock ballads of Bad Company, Jason’s storytelling is gripping as he navigates dramatic rhythms and seedy subject matter. Strong classic rock influences are also heard in “Wheels Rollin’,” which could be Jason’s “Turn The Page,” as he offers a personal look at life on the road.
Working again with producer Michael Knox, Night Train makes special use of spatial relationships. The tight bass line of “Talk,” locked in time with the powerful kick drum, comes through clear while the bluesy “Staring At The Sun” deals out a vast depth of emotion in the chorus’ wonderful wall of sound. On “1994” Jason plays with old school hip hop influences as he implores his girl to, hop in this truck, aka time machine, before giving the most incredible shout out to Joe Diffie ever recorded. With a fat, groove-heavy hook made from slick electric guitars, this song is destined for the dance floor.
Closing out the record with the atmospheric and pastoral, “Water Tower,” Jason comes full circle to the small town themes of the project’s opening track. It’s a nice, fitting close that accentuates his connection to the people and places he sings about. Night Train certainly leans a little heavy, but it’s this connection and bond that will resonate with fans.
Key Tracks – “Take A Little Ride,” “Wheels Rollin’,” “Black Tears,” “Water Tower”