Album Review

Jimmy Buffett, 'Buffet Hotel'

December 14, 2009

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Jimmy Buffet Buffet Hotel
ESSENTIAL “We Learned to Be Cool From You’’

Jimmy Buffett keeps the Parrothead pipeline flowing. This album draws from his recent adventures in Africa, where he visited the legendary city of Timbuktu and joined a jam session at the actual Buffet Hotel in Bamako, which he describes in lengthy liner notes as “the Memphis of West Africa.’’ The title track captures his picaresque travels and he offers more hedonistic fuel in breezy tracks “Big Top’’ (comparing his shows to a circus, no surprise there) and “Surfing in a Hurricane,’’ which he actually did as a youth. He adds a nifty take on Jesse Winchester’s “Rhumba Man’’ and a couple of songs he played on this year’s tour, the rocking “Summerzcool’’ and the topical “A Lot to Drink About,’’ where he slaps the doomsday nature of CNN and other news stations. But what makes this tower over some Buffett albums is the ballads. Despite his eternal beach-boy persona, he is getting more reflective, notably in his gorgeous folk song “Beautiful Swimmers’’ (a tribute to Marilyn Monroe), the even more stunning “We Learned to Be Cool From You’’ (a tribute to Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, and Walter Cronkite), and the Bruce Cockburn gem “Life Short Call Now,’’ a poignant look at the transitory nature of life. (Out now)