Since Jimmy Buffett never leaves his comfort zone, it’s hard to call 2009’s Buffet Hotel a return to roots but, in a way, it is. Discounting the mock rap on “Turn Up the Heat and Chill the Rosé,” this album doesn’t even have the lingering country and reggae flavors that seasoned 2006’s Take the Weather with You, with all of the songs riding a cool, mellow country-rock wave, the kind that has been his stock-in-trade since the ‘70s. There’s a difference between being part of a tradition and being stuck in the past and Buffett is surely in the former, not shying away from the new millennial mess, admitting that we all have “A Lot to Drink About” and never flinching from his advancing years, most movingly on a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Life’s Short Call Now.” Cockburn’s song is paired with another expertly chosen cover, Jesse Winchester’s “Rhumba Man” (he covered Winchester’s “Nothin’ But a Breeze” the album before), but this has the highest percentage of original Buffett compositions since 1999’s Beach House on the Moon, which is a good indication that Jimmy is in good form. While a handful are collaborations with his longtime colleague Mac McAnally, many of these are co-written with Will Kimbrough, who helps liven up Buffett and sharpen his pen, resulting in one of Jimmy’s strongest albums in recent memory.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine