Lucky Old Sun
ESSENTIAL "Key's in the Conch Shell"
The sun in question on Kenny Chesney's new album indeed burns bright, but it has taken refuge in the clouds. On "Lucky Old Sun," Chesney - the heir apparent to Jimmy Buffett's empire of sun, sand, and margaritas - explores the flip side of the island life that's worked wonders for his career. This is not beach music; it's what you listen to when you're stranded inside because it's raining. Chesney has said his divorce from actress Renée Zellweger inspired the album's melancholy that threads through the entire affair, even on more upbeat songs such as the Caribbean-flavored "Key's in the Conch Shell." It's nice to see Chesney cast in a different hue (and this one's distinctly blue), but eventually "Lucky Old Sun" recedes into its own down tempo, like waves drawing out to sea. Dave Matthews, sounding like he's down to his last cigarette, adds a touch of gravity to the opening "I'm Alive." "That Lucky Old Sun," the pop standard reimagined here as a duet with a subdued Willie Nelson, meanders like the two country stars are closing down the jazz bar. They remind you that when the sun is obscured, it at least gives you a silver lining. (Out now) - JAMES REED