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B Kenny Chesney

Songs for the Saints

Warner Bros.

Kenny Chesney isn't necessarily known for his depth.

The superstar has amassed 39 No. 1 country hits and sold more than 35 million albums by championing the escapist lifestyle of No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems.

But sometimes reality even intrudes on Chesney's No Shoes Nation, as it did when Hurricane Irma crashed into the Caribbean at Category 5 strength last year, seriously damaging Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, including the Virgin Islands that Chesney calls home.

Songs for the Saints is the album born from that disaster, a benefit for Chesney's Love for Love City Foundation, which provides disaster relief for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The title track is a love letter to the lifestyle on those islands and a tribute to the resilience of the people who live there. It's simple, and Chesney at times sounds uncharacteristically shaky, an outgrowth of him writing it while the storm was battering the area. "Love for Love City" is more hopeful, a reggae-tinged anthem featuring Ziggy Marley that reminds Love City, the nickname for St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, that it will not be forgotten.

Chesney finds inspiration in songs from other artists, including Jimmy Buffett, who guests on Chesney's tender version of Buffett's "Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season." He plays up the island undertones of Lord Huron's dreamy, but defiant "Ends of the Earth."

Mindy Smith provides gorgeous harmonies on the forward-looking acoustic beauty "Better Boat."

The unifying single "Get Along" seems destined to give him his 40th No. 1 hit and "We're All Here" is built to be a fan favorite at his stadium shows. However, Songs for the Saints is about so much more than that, a way for Chesney to work his way through the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Hot tracks: "Love for Love City," "Songs for the Saints," "Ends of the Earth"


Newsday (TNS)

B Wiz Khalifa

Rolling Papers 2

Taylor Gang/Atlantic

Anyone paying attention to Wiz Khalifa as of late recognizes that that the usually lanky Pittsburgh-born rapper has put meat on his bones. The same sort of muscle can be found, too, in the music he has made since 2014's Blacc Hollywood. There's a density to the sound and a gravity to his lyrics to be found in this, his newest mixtape/album, that didn't exist on early singles such as the fun "Black and Yellow," from 2011's first Rolling Papers.

A woozy production such as the ruminative "Ocean" finds the Wiz rhapsodizing about the ups and downs of the good life while stuck in a smoky hotel room. While lyrically allowing Khalifa a shot at Raymond Chandler-like noir imagery, the music is as filled with souped-up synths a la Kanye West's 808 & Heartbreak. "Mr. Williams/Where is the Love," is a riveting rap battle and a creamy R&B duet in one thick burst of manic musical energy. The song "Rolling Papers 2" weirdly wells up with Wiz emotion as he raps, "I done seen people suffer, hate turned into love/Lost some people to get here, but they watching us from up above," through the track's hypnotic pulse and hazy production. Not every song is as dramatic or dire as those -- several of his duets, such as his boastful Snoop Dogg pairing "Penthouse" are uninspiring -- but, this is the Wiz at a new peak and flying highest. And I don't mean from the after effects of the weed.

Hot tracks: "Ocean," "Mr. Williams/Where is the Love," "Rolling Papers 2"


The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

A- Jennifer Castle

Angels of Death

Paradise of Bachelors

There are excellent records about death, dying, grief and goodbyes, such as Neil Young's Tonight's the Night and David Bowie's Blackstar. Jennifer Castle's Angels of Death is ethereal, deeply poetic, nimble, sure-footed and beautifully written and performed.

The sounds mix country and folk with a dash of pop, reflective but with a dynamic that shields even the sadder passages from too much darkness.

"Texas" is about visiting a dying grandmother whose eyes remind the protagonist of her dead father. She wants to reach him through her tune but she has something more worldly in mind -- "Send a lover/up to my bedroom when you can."

"Grim Reaper" is prefaced by a long silence and a gradual buildup of sound. Even though Castle sings "It's not that I'm afraid at night/To meet the one who hold the scythe," she's not in any rush to confront him.

Other highlights include piano-led opener "Tomorrow's Mourning," the Cowboy Junkies-like title track and the stunning "Crying Shame," which John Lennon might have written during his Plastic Ono Band days for Roy Orbison.

"Tonight the Evening" tries to find messages from beyond on the radio dial and its extended coda, a bit like Joni Mitchell's "Dreamland," includes a string section that helps it develop into a hypnotic swirl.

Castle's sublime songs, crystalline voice and the integrity of her delivery carry Angels of Death to the brighter side of life.

Hot tracks: "Texas," "Grim Reaper," "Crying Shame," "Tomorrow Morning," "Tonight the Evening"


The Associated Press

The cover of Jennifer Castle’s Angels of Death
Kenny Chesney "Songs for the Saints" 2018
Wiz Khalifa Rolling Papers 2 2018 ... new cover

Style on 08/07/2018

Print Headline: Chesney gets serious with Songs for the Saints

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