The title-track of Kenny Chesney’s new album, Welcome to the Fishbowl, compares today’s media-hungry society to living in a cramped, transparent world where everything is on display. Over an appropriately modern beat, Kenny sings, You just lost your privacy / Now you’re swimming around in here with me. It’s an honest take on stardom, and though it may offer the clearest social commentary on his new 12-song set, the record follows suit with deeply personal takes on love, relationships and belonging.
Produced by Kenny and longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon, Welcome to the Fishbowl, due in stores June 19, opens with the melodic guitars and drum sequencing of the current single, “Come Over.” Expressing the restlessness and anxiety of desire, Kenny admits that he’s, Talking to myself, anything to make a sound, in the middle of the night to fend off the loneliness. Intimate details like these give the album a familiar voice and the ability to connect deeply. On the harmony-filled “Sing ‘Em Good My Friend,” one of the album’s standout cuts, an acoustic foundation supports a touching story that uses music to make it through numbing loss. Honestly, honesty never goes out of style, he sings smoothly before adding, so sing the pain my friend.
The ideas of belonging and place play central roles on the album, whether through relationships or geographical locations. “While He Still Knows Who I Am” is a tender story song about a son trying to make up for lost time with his father before Alzheimer’s takes too much. Looking for a deeper bond to his roots, Kenny sings with a tone acknowledging the gravity of the situation, I only knew him as my father / I’m gonna get to know the man, after first mentioning his father’s subtle influences like being a fan of Chevys and baseball. “I’m A Small Town” is a ringing electric/acoustic piece offering a unique take on a current country staple, as the point of view is quite literally that of just a dot there on the map. It’s a refreshing take on the country town theme, while “To Get To You (55th 3rd)” and “El Cerrito Place” are both set in the city, New York and Los Angeles respectively.
Kenny’s profile has grown extensively through the years, and these two songs represent that reach in some ways as they span coast to coast. “El Cerrito Place” is a mysterious epic with a revolving chorus of, I’ve been lookin’ for you baby, and haunting lines like, Someone said they might have seen you where the ocean meets the land / So I’ve been out here all night lookin’ for your footprints in the sand. The imagery here is vivid, even when holding back some detail in order to leave interpretation up to the imagination.
Current touring buddies Tim McGraw and Grace Potter join Kenny on the album. Tim guests on the party track “Feel Like A Rock Star,” which will undoubtedly be a crowd favorite this summer, while a live version of the hit song “You and Tequila” featuring Grace is included to close out the record. And don’t worry, Kenny makes sure to keep his trademark island vibe alive with the laid-back groove of “Time Flies.” On Welcome to the Fishbowl, Kenny delivers a contemporary and modern sounding record that maintains a personal connection through its transparent nature and willingness to let listeners in.
Key tracks – “Come Over,” “Welcome to the Fishbowl,” “Sing ‘Em Good My Friend,” “While He Still Knows Who I Am”