Despite Rearview Town being Jason Aldean’s eighth studio album, and the Academy of Country Music naming him entertainer of the years three years running, I must admit to not having heard of the country performer before. As I sat down to become acquainted with Aldean, a shiver ran down my spine as I recalled the blandness of many of the country record’s I’ve listened to in recent years, and hitting play I fully expected to hear another unimaginative genre album, a collection of song’s rehashing the same old sound and ideas. Instead, as Rearview Town concluded its forty-six-minute run, I found myself again reaching for the play button.
Don’t mistake me, Aldean doesn’t transcend the country appellation with Rearview Town. In fact, the album is emphatically country-rock, yet from opening number Dirt to Dust onwards Aldean works a form of black magic, weaving something compelling out of all the usual and expected threads. Perhaps the appeal of Rearview Town lies in its theme of moving on, of leaving the unexceptional behind and pursuing something better. It’s hardly an original message, but Aldean is consistent in his thematic approach to the album and sprinkles some interesting turns of phrase – like “topping up the tank with some never look back” on Blacktop Gone – to ensure interest is maintained.
The eponymous Rearview Town effectively utilises layering and repetition to complement the minimally styled main riff, providing a prime example of the compositional and production skills that have gone into the record. But Rearview Town is not without its missteps, with the anthemic country-pop of lead single You Make It Easy somewhat compromising the album’s musical unity, while the hip-hop/R&B inspired vocals on Getting’ Warmed Up feel oddly placed. Miranda Lambert features on Drowns the Whiskey, and her very twangy vocal delivery will make or break the track depending on personal preference.
Even though some of the record’s later tracks fail to impress themselves into the listener’s mind, they are nonetheless well executed and are certainly not actively bad. To close the album, Aldean delivers High Noon Neon which is replete with interesting images of loneliness and personal desolation. It is a strong note to conclude Rearview Town on and definitely compels the listener to revisit the album.