Judge Gordon Sullivan doesn't think rock should twang. Twinge maybe, but not twang.
Jason Aldean at his rockin' country best
Jason Aldean is an up-and-comer in the country world. He's got a few hits under his belt, and he went from opening act to sold-out headliner in just a few short years. Jason Aldean: Wide Open Live & More captures a show at the Knoxville Coliseum from March 6, 2009, with the following set list:
• "Wide Open"
This release is obviously aimed at those who are already fans of Mr. Aldean, and I can't help but feel they'll be pleased. The hits are here, and I can't knock the energetic performance on display. The set opens with "Wide Open," which is on the more rocking edge of country, and then Jason takes the tunes from the ballad side to an almost bluesy feel, giving the entire set a dynamic feel. Listening to this show I was struck (because I avoid country radio whenever possible) by just how darn many of the songs were celebrations and/or affirmations of the country lifestyle. In fact, those types of songs (like "She's Country") make up about a third of the set list. Another third are the love songs, which Aldean performs tenderly enough (at least the women in the audience looked impressed). The final third are a mix of various kinds of road songs, which is a pretty classic mix for country music.
The above was probably redundant for Aldean fans. They're going to want to just pick this release right up. The real question is how non-fans are going to take it. For my money, there's nothing particularly interesting here. The best I can do for Jason Aldean is damn him with faint praise. He's got a decent voice, plays pretty good guitar, and seems to enjoy his work, but the songs aren't his, and there's really nothing special about his performance.
I blame a large part of the problem on the current formulas in vogue on country radio, which has more often than not (from what I hear in stores and from the cabs of passing trucks) become rock-with-a-twang. This is absolutely evident in Aldean's show. The first song "Wide Open" contains a classic rock riff, and "She's Country" sounds like raunchy blues. One of his guitarists has a Def Tones stick on his Les Paul, and there's a freakin' drum solo during this show. If that's not lifted straight out of the rock playbook, I don't know what is. The problem, of course, is not mixing rock and country. Steve Earle did it to great effect in the '80s and I love him for it. No, the problem is that what's borrowed from rock is borrowed to give the songs a kind of crossover appeal to make them easier to market. Heaven knows I'd love to hear a band influenced by both country and the Def Tones, but the only music on this disc is (to quote the press release for non-mainstream country artist Robbie Fulks) "calculated to form an inoffensive backdrop to the suburban shopping experience." In case you haven't guessed it, radio country isn't my thing, so I can't really recommend it to anyone.
On the technical side of things, this Blu-ray release does fine. The concert appears to have been shot on video, but it's not the most visually interesting or detailed show I've ever seen. That said, the video transfer looks bright free of obvious compression errors. There are several audio options, including DTS-HD and LPCM track. These captured the dynamics of the show well, from the tight bass to the crunch of the guitars, but I wasn't blown out of my seat. Again, I think fans will be pleased, but I doubt this will be an audio reference disc for non-fans.
Extras include a short look behind the scenes with Jason, as well as an extra performance by the band of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
Although I can't recommend Jason Aldean to newcomers, this is a solid release that most of Jason's fans will want to pick up.
Because Jason Aldean seems to love his work, this disc is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Bonus Performance
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