On his breakthrough 2011 album, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, Jake Owen began to align his brand of country with a more contemporary sound. Huge choruses and shiny production connected well with audiences and the album produced four consecutive No. 1 singles. Now releasing his fourth studio project, Jake stays the course with a new collection that emphasizes the Florida native’s Southern surfer personality while also taking new risks along the way.
Days Of Gold, due in stores December 3, pairs Jake once again with producer Joey Moi (Florida Georgia Line, Nickelback) to deliver a tight 12-song set big on the tenets found in its title track: sunshine, nostalgia and love. Banging open to gunfire percussion and backwoods banjo on the full-throttle title track, Jake gives one of the most impassioned performances of his career. “Days Of Gold,” which celebrates life and friends, immediately announces that Jake’s sound is continuing to evolve right before our ears. The funky, laid-back “Tall Glass Of Something” and wired “Drivin’ All Night” continue the trend with progressive sonics and compelling structures. In the latter’s swirling chorus, Jake shows fantastic timing and anticipation, moving easily through the tongue-twister, No way I’m stopping this Chevy/Red Bull’s keepin’ my lead foot heavy/1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3am /Steve Earle out, Tom Petty back in.
Songs like the revolving love-gone-good number “Good Timing” and crisp, hip hop-influenced current single “Beachin’” favor big choruses and new relationships. And while the production injects a strong dose of Florida Georgia Line’s massive hook-tastic sound, Jake manages to continually showcase his own come-what-may personality that has endeared him to fans. The nostalgic, Southern rock tune “1972” joins stomping riffs with shout outs to classic rockers and the irresistible “One Little Kiss (Never Killed Anybody)” is intricately orchestrated.
The new territory on Days Of Gold can come in subtle ways. The standout track “Ghost Town” features a rather dynamic vocal performance that continually shifts into an almost free-form passage coming at the end of the chorus. After locked in measures, Jake loosens the reins to sing, You got me living in a ghost town/Girl, I see you every road I go down, emphasizing different beats. “Life Of The Party,” initially coming off with pop-flavored tears, carries real insight and vulnerability in the line, I don’t want them to know I’m all-alone, to explain supersized behavior at the party. Pair instances like these with the stark, introspective piano ballad “What We Ain’t Got” and sparkling closer, “Sure Feels Right” – where the lines, I feel a little brave, I feel a little scared tonight/and it sure feels right, pace the song’s excitement – and Days Of Gold adds new depth to Jake’s catalog.
Following up what was until this point a career-defining record, Jake uses Days Of Gold as an opportunity to push his sound even further. With sneaky risks and a willingness to keep evolving, Jake stays one step ahead of the game on an exciting new project.
Key Tracks – “Days Of Gold,” “Ghost Town,” “Tall Glass Of Something,” Sure Feels Right”