Kenny Chesney

I Will Stand

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Building upon the bright, cheerful punch of Me and You, Kenny Chesney widened his musical vision on his fourth album, 1997's I Will Stand. This is partially due to his own pen -- he has two songwriting credits here and none on the predecessor -- but it's more down to the music he's chosen to sing and the persona he conveys here. He's relaxed, friendly, and assured, never trying too hard, which gently draws listeners in on both his ballads and rockers -- and, what is turning increasingly into his specialty, the sunny midtempo tunes, equally suited for the beach or the bar. This is typified by the breezy "She Gets That Way" and the hazy '70s soft rock vibe of his co-written original "You Win, I Win, We Lose," and even the snappier songs (such as "She's Got It All" and "Steamy Windows") don't push too hard -- which is fine, because the slower songs don't get mired in sappy sentiment, as "That's Why I'm Here" makes clear. It never sounds like Chesney would belong to either the hillbilly heaven or honky tonk hell that he sings about on the purest country song here -- the one that also features verses by Tracy Lawrence and George Jones -- but that's the appeal of Kenny Chesney: he doesn't live in the past, but he doesn't disrespect it, either. He's merely in the present, trading upon modern sounds and the tunes that he grew up with, making contemporary country that feels country in how he mixes up country-rock, soft rock, and pop, and it's down so casually that it's easy to take for granted how good he is on this record, the first that really brought his star persona to the forefront.

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