In the past year, Kenny Chesney has released two albums, pulled off a concert tour that drew 50,000 screaming fans to Gillette Stadium, and gone from marriage to annulment with actress Renee Zellweger almost faster than you can say her name.
Maybe it's time to slow down. At least that's the conclusion one draws from his erratic new CD, ''The Road and the Radio." It feels rushed and formulaic and features only two songs that he wrote. By comparison, his other CD this year, ''Be As You Are (Songs From an Old Chair)," boasted 13 tracks that he wrote or co-wrote, and his disc before that, ''When the Sun Goes Down," contained four.
The new CD says nothing about the Zellweger breakup but says everything about the market demand on Chesney to keep churning out product while he's hot. The first three songs are winners -- starting with the festive title track that he did write (about hitting the highway with ''a Red Bull, a road map, and an old Stones cassette"), then the uptempo, Warren Zevon-like ''Living in Fast Forward" (about ''a hillbilly rock star out of control," which may be appropriate), and the poignant ballad, ''Who You'd Be Today," about a deceased friend. Again, Chesney didn't write it, but it's a beautiful song and has already become a top five country hit.
Hints of trouble, though, arrive with the mushy ballad ''You Save Me," the static rocker ''Summertime," and the cliched ''In a Small Town," which sounds like wannabe John Mellencamp. The beach-partying ''Beer in Mexico," which Chesney wrote at Sammy Hagar's birthday party in Cabo San Lucas, breaks no new ground. But the worst is yet to come: ''Tequila Loves Me" (with the hammy verse, ''Tequila loves me even if you don't") and the hackneyed ''Somebody Take Me Home."
Chesney needs some downtime to come up with better songs than these. His career longevity will be based on great material, not rushed efforts to fill the commercial pipeline.