Fifteen songs on one record? It’s a bold move — more potential hits, but more potential misses, too. Hard-rockin’ Georgia native Jason Aldean, who prides himself on not fitting in a square country box, did it on his 2010 crossover monster, My Kinda Party, and scored three No. 1s, including the rap-laden ”Dirt Road Anthem” and the Kelly Clarkson duet ”Don’t You Wanna Stay.” On Night Train, his fifth album, he aims high and wide again with tracks ranging from ”1994,” a hip-hoppy tribute to ’90s country artist Joe Diffie that asks you to chant ”Joe! Joe! Joe Diffieee!” (laugh, but then, ugh, you will), to ”Black Tears,” the ballad of a sad stripper who dulls her pain with cheap sex and cocaine. Enjoy, country radio.
While Aldean can pull off his wilder detours, he’s at his best when he hews to traditional themes. There’s an urgency in his voice that gives every driving chorus added heat, whether he’s singing about a woman (”I Don’t Do Lonely Well,” ”Staring at the Sun”), his country-boy work ethic (”The Only Way I Know,” with Luke Bryan and Eric Church), or a water tower (literally, ”Water Tower”). And man, does he know how to turn a simple date-night drive into something epic. When he pleads, ”I don’t want to waste that moon/And the heat on the hood of this Ford” on the parkin’ ballad ”Talk,” well, you may not want to waste it either. A-