After a decade in which he's put out mainly live albums and compilations, it's time...
Sue Keogh 2004-09-06
James Bond fans will be unimpressed that their urbane hero's catchphrase has been hijacked by this barefooted chap with a peach shirt, baseball cap and the kind of grin that says "I spend all my time at my Florida beach house looking at girls."
But there's more to the man than the laidback beach bum you see on the cover of License To Chill. Unusual for most young hopefuls who headed to Music City in the late 1960's, Buffett had a college degree, and through becoming a reporter for Billboard he gained a proper insight into the music industry. He quickly decided not to hang around where there was so much competition, and upped and left for Florida. It's here that he's honed his sun-baked'n'frisky style of country pop for the last three decades.
1977 saw Buffett hitting the top ten with "Margaritaville", which today remains his most famous hit. Over the years, when the music's been well received, he's filled stadiums with his legions of fans - the flamboyant Parrot Heads who come dressed in Hawaiian shirts and silly hats, brandishing beach balls and inflatable fins. In the slow periods, he's kept the Buffett business alive with his own line of clothing, a string of Margaritaville clubs and fiction writing.
Currently, it's the music that's putting crawfish pie on the table. The duet with Alan Jackson, "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere", got Buffett back on country radio and accepting CMA Awards. Young pup Kenny Chesney has brought the Buffett formula to a whole new generation of fans. And now, after a decade in which he's put out mainly live albums and compilations, it's time to get back in the studio and capitalise on this resurgence in popularity.
The result is a hugely enjoyable album, crisply produced by Michael Utley and Mac McAnally - members of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band and stalwarts of the country session circuit. The majority of the songs are collaborations, and the calibre of artists featured reflects the pulling power of a top notch studio coupled with somewhere to go fishing; George Strait and Alan Jackson were among the first to join up, with Toby Keith, Clint Black and Kenny Chesney not far behind.
Highlights include the opening track - an exuberant and unashamed crowd pleasing version of "Hey Good Lookin'", featuring all the above gentlemen. Romping honky tonk title track sees Chesney somehow keeping a straight face when singing, "Girls, girls, girls/ ain't nothin' like them in the whole wide world/ so damn smart and cute/ amazing what they pass off as a bathing suit." Songwriter Will Kimbrough shows his mettle with "Piece Of Work", which with its driving "Not Fade Away" rhythm and stubborn working man theme is perfect for Toby Keith to get his chops around. Then white trash humour abounds in "Simply Complicated".
Great fun. Put your Kenny Chesney records away and listen to the original.