Personnel: Danny Rader (acoustic guitar, tres, bouzouki); John Willis (acoustic guitar); Adam Shoenfeld, Kurt Allison, Rob McNelley (electric guitar); Mike Johnson , Russ Pahl (steel guitar); Jonathan Yudkin (cello); Tony Harrell (piano, Hammond b-3 organ, synthesizer); Rich Redmond (drums, percussion); Blake Bollinger, Jaron Boyer (drum programming); Neil Thrasher, Russell Terrell, Perry Coleman (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Justin Niebank.
Photographer: Jim Wright .
Jason Aldean settles into his slow stride on 2016's They Don't Know, his seventh studio set. Facing the onset of his forties, Aldean chooses to pivot off of the smoldering moments of 2014's Old Boots, New Dirt, a slow-churning intensity achieved partially through a sly adoption of electronic rhythms. On They Don't Know, Aldean largely strips away such nods toward modernity, adding some loops to lead track (and lead single) "Lights Come On," an ode toward hitting a big country concert at the end of a hard work week -- a number designed as a rocker but proceeding at the same deliberate tempo as the power ballads that dominate the album, including "When the Lights Go Out," which cleverly closes They Don't Know. Often, the question of rocking hinges on a matter of volume: the party songs are slightly louder due to the preponderance of guitars, not due to quicker rhythms or any suggestion of chaos. It's comfortable ground for Aldean and, strikingly, he sounds comfortable too, never singing with an audible scowl. He seems settled in his skin, knowing he's at his best in a maudlin minor key, and that shift is welcome even if it accidentally accentuates just how slowly They Don't Know plods. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine