Review: Jake Owen needs to find his own voice

Associated Press
In this CD cover image released by RCA Nashville, the latest release by Jake Owen, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," is shown. (AP Photo/RCA Nashville)
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In this CD cover image released by RCA Nashville, the latest release by Jake Owen, "Barefoot Blue Jean …

Jake Owen, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" (RCA)

Jake Owen's third album, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," opens with a guy telling his lover he'll do whatever she wants to make her happy. The song, "Anywhere With You," epitomizes Owen's country music career: He strains for radio play by following formulas established by others, which keeps Owen from establishing his own identity or point of view.

Owen occasionally achieves a hit: The new album's breezy title cut has become his third top 10 single. But he misses more than he scores, and the reason can be found in songs like the cliché-filled "Keepin' It Country" and the silly "Apple Pie Moonshine," in which a blue-collar guy hits it off with a wealthy young woman because her moonshine tastes so sweet. As in the past, he focuses on lightweight fare that doesn't resonate.

On better songs — such as the dramatic narrative "The One That Got Away" or the beach-party celebration, "Nobody Feelin' No Pain" — Owen shows talent and personality. But he hasn't climbed to stardom as quickly as peers Jason Aldean and Jamey Johnson because, thus far, he's failed to suggest he has anything distinctive to offer. "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" doesn't change that assessment.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Alone With You" is a moody ballad about confronting a woman who only flirts with him when she's drinking. Throughout the song Owen displays a dramatic intensity that proves meatier material suits him.

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