Jake Owen

Days of Gold

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Jake Owen's day in the sun was a long time coming. Moderately successful from the start, he scored his first blockbuster in 2011 with Barefoot Blue Jean Night, a set of suburban country-pop so polished it gleamed. It proudly followed the path paved by Luke Bryan, a fellow country bro who appeared after Owen but quickly overshadowed him, partially because Bryan embraced every manner of revelry, right down to a series of Spring Break EPs -- a move Owen mimicked with his own Endless Summer. If Owen's approximations of Bryan seemed slightly too calculated in the crisp, computerized sheen of Barefoot Blue Jean Night, he's much more relaxed on its 2013 sequel, Days of Gold. He's happy to relax in the sun -- or, as he puts it in the corny lead single, to be "Beachin'" -- whether that means getting sleepily "Tipsy" or proclaiming that his love "Sure Feels Right," and the heavily buffered veneer has warmed just enough to let some of those bright rays inside. There's no mistaking Days of Gold for anything earthy, but this sonic thawing winds up emphasizing Owen's inherent sweetness in an appealing fashion. He may sing about beer and pump out nostalgic fantasies like "1972" -- a classic rock ode composed wholesale from newly minted retro T-shirts -- but he never seems like a swaggering, macho dude. When he sings of a broken heart -- as he does on "Life of the Party," a clever spin on his previous hit "The One That Got Away" -- the melancholy sits on the surface, but what keeps Days of Gold shining is Owen's nice, easy touch. This is a low-key summertime party where everybody is invited and the celebrations last just until sundown.

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