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All aboard the ‘Night Train’: Jason Aldean chugs ahead of the pack

Country superstar Jason Aldean opens his fifth studio album, Night Train, with a tribute to classic Americana, “This Nothin’ Town.” It’s hard to go wrong singing about small towns, drinking beer and Friday night football, but to avoid slipping too far into country music stereotypes, Aldean also reminds us “it ain’t all just porches and plows.”

Aldean has long been the go-to-guy for a good, loud country party song, but when it comes to romantic ballads he’s got a thing or two to learn. Take for example the chorus of “Talk”: “I don’t wanna talk anymore / I know enough about you to know all I want to do is…” We know what you want to do, Mr. Aldean. Perhaps Aldean is following in the footsteps of another country bad boy, Toby Keith — “Talk” is a less charming version of Keith’s 1993 hit “A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action.”

The guitars are singing and so are three of country music’s young bucks on “The Only Way I Know How” as Aldean teams up with Luke Bryan and Eric Church to let us know how country boys roll — and yes, I think he should have invited Billy Currington too. The album hits a high point on the next track, “Take a Little Ride,” which is classic Aldean: loud, rockin’ country that begs to be blasted out of rolled-down windows. The song would be sitting atop country music charts right now if it weren’t for the unstoppable, unavoidable dominance of T-Swift’s recently released album Red.

Things get a little more personal on “When She Says Baby” as Aldean reveals how it drives him “a good kinda crazy” when a certain lady runs her fingers through his hair and says “baby.” Don’t get any ideas though, ladies: Aldean has been off the market since 2001 when he married his high-school sweetheart.

The least memorable tracks on Night Train all seem to be a product of Aldean’s life on tour. “I Don’t Do Lonely,” for example, slows things down, and it’s easy to infer it was most likely written on the road away from his wife and two daughters.

The title track is destined to be overplayed on country music radio stations, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying it. Aldean delivers a perfect balance of country back roads nostalgia and heartfelt rock-‘n’-roll melody. All I can say about the next track, “1994,” is if you pick up on the Joe Diffie references scattered throughout, congratulations — you are a true country-music connoisseur (Taylor Swift fans need not apply).

The second half of the album contains few surprises — just a few more solid country songs from a man confident in his abilities as a singer/songwriter, rounding out his fifth studio album. “Staring at the Sun,” “Black Tears,” “Drink One for Me” and “Water Tower” are all variations on the same, not terribly original themes of homesick blues, faded love and nostalgia for good times and good friends. Fans of “Hard to Love” by Lee Brice will find a hidden gem in “Walking Away,” which is Aldean’s version of the bad boy’s lament.

Go ahead and take a little ride with Jason Aldean, and enjoy Night Train, the album destined to be the soundtrack to your next tailgate.