Starter Pack: Jason Aldean

Photo by Jim Wright
Photo by Jim Wright

With a cowboy hat and a sultry stare, Jason Aldean has taken country music by a storm. He’s had some monster hits—“Burnin’ It Down,” “Night Train,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” and lots more—but he doesn’t have albums full of filler. His catalogue has songs that cover a large range of topics and emotions, all while being so distinctly Aldean. Here are some of our favorites:

“Amarillo Sky” (from Jason Aldean)

You’d never know it, but “Amarillo Sky” was co-written by Big & Rich, alongside Bart Pursley and hit maker Rodney Clawson. From his self-titled debut album (2005), Jason Aldean tells us the story of a struggling farmer enduring a terrible drought. The two most obvious instruments being a steel guitar and a fiddle, this track almost seems more redneck than some of the biggest redneck anthems of today (yes, “Boys ‘Round Here,” I am talking about you). “Amarillo Sky” doesn’t seem like an obvious single choice, but it clearly struck a chord with listeners, hitting #4 on the Hot Country charts. Why? It’s country music in its purest form. It’s a song of all-American struggle and strength. It can’t get more country than that.

“Back In This Cigarette” (from Relentless)

Aldean’s sophomore effort Relentless (2007) has some of the greatest songs he’s ever sung. To stand out on this record is a true feat, and the somber “Back In This Cigarette” does just that. From beginning to end, his vocals are exhausted, though never lacking passion. The verses speak of leaving town and moving on from a love gone wrong, but the chorus shows just how stuck Aldean is: “Stirring up ashes, tryin’ to find passion when there’s no love left / It’s like tryin’ to put smoke back in this cigarette.” The guitar riff on this track sounds like it’s being played backwards, adding to this standstill feeling. “Back In This Cigarette” digs right into the deep, dark place where hopelessness lives, and it never lets up. It’s a beautifully written song, and Aldean’s performance is spot on.

“My Kinda Party” (from My Kinda Party)

Did “My Kinda Party” mark the beginning of Jason Aldean’s reign over the bro-country era? Possibly. It shines against his previous “bro” tracks: “She’s Country” and “Dirt Road Anthem” from Wide Open (2009) were a little too goofy. Released a year after those two singles, “My Kinda Party” was the first sign that Aldean was ready to take his fun a little more seriously. The whole song feels like an adrenaline rush with a little anger thrown it for kicks. It makes you realize why Aldean sounds so different from the Luke Bryans and Florida Georgia Lines of the world. Their parties are along the lines of pool parties or barbeques, while Aldean’s take place in darker, more secretive areas. “My Kinda Party” makes you want to party, but it also seems like the perfect song to let off steam with. The raging guitar solo at the end is one for the head bangers. It’s the kind of song you want to let loose to. After all, that’s what parties are for.

“The Truth” (from Wide Open)

Aldean has always walked the line between sensitive country singer and hardcore party-rocker. He never goes too far into one side of himself to make the other side feel insincere. “The Truth” plays into both of these sides, though this isn’t clear at first. Brett James, who wrote the song with Ashley Monroe, has said the song’s structure makes its meaning complex. You aren’t sure what “the truth” in question actually is until the bridge: he’s asking an ex-girlfriend to lie about how he’s doing. Aldean wants to seem like he’s having fun, traveling to all kinds of places and “living like a gypsy.” In reality, though, he’s gone insane over his ex. The revelation is heartbreaking, and it makes this song an Aldean classic.

“Texas Was You” (from My Kinda Party)

It’s a wonder “Texas Was You” was never released as a single. This track is both a fan favorite and a well-known track among casual Jason Aldean listeners. It’s popular for good reason. This is a roadmap through Aldean’s memories, ranging from riverbanks in Ohio to summer jobs in Georgia. Still, Texas remains the most special. It’s a simple song with little words, but it doesn’t need many to make you miss the one that got away. Not to mention, its chorus is incredibly catchy. With star songwriters Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley, and Tony Martin behind it, how could it not be?