Album Review: Jake Owen’s ‘American Love’

Jake Owen has lived a lot of life since releasing his last album three years ago but don’t expect to hear an autobiography of events showcased on his latest effort, American Love. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

“Over the past few years I’ve experienced the unexpected,” he says. “My Dad received a cancer diagnosis and I, unfortunately, went through a divorce. People probably thought I would record songs that reflected those difficult times, but I found myself gravitating to songs that had more of a positive vibe and actually made me feel better by singing them. Music truly does seem to help the healing process.”

As a result, American Love’s 11 tracks embody the Jake Owen fans have come to know and love — the laid back, beach loving, VW traveling singer in all his glory. While Owen has dubbed the past few years an “interesting ride” at a recent listening event in Nashville, his fun side thankfully has not subsided. Songs like the feel-good “VW Van” and jazzy “Good Company” showcase Owen’s new horn section that put him equally at ease playing on an island or in an arena. It’s a welcomed and renewed spirit that no doubt is felt by Owen and fans in the live setting.

The album is bookended by the title track and Owen’s latest single “American Country Love Song” — both upbeat, horn-driven songs that are familiar staples from the singer. Meanwhile, the sentimental “LAX” follows “Good Company” and is the only track Owen co-wrote on the album. Country at its finest with plenty of pedal steel and the singer’s yearning baritone, “LAX” has Owen begging those in California to watch out and take care of his former love.

Cover artwork provided by RCA Nashville

Cover artwork provided by RCA Nashville

While the laid back tracks allow Owen’s vocals to shine, it is on the Luke Laird, Shane McAnally and Chris Stapleton penned “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” that showcases his bluesy side. A radio smash in the making, Owen finds himself talking to a woman who is left at the bar alone by her boyfriend. “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” is the album’s standout song with sultry electric guitar and memorable rhythms accompanied by Stapleton’s smooth belts on backing vocals.

Other highlights on American Love include the heartbreaking ballad “When You Love Someone” with Hillary Lindsey on harmonies and “Everybody Dies Young,” which suggests the listener live life to the fullest. A sentiment Owen no doubt takes to heart, the lyrics read as if he wrote them himself: “If we don’t stop and smell the ocean boys, we might just miss our ship,” he sings. “You only get one life so you gotta live it up / You only get one heart so you gotta get to givin’ it up.”

“This record has been very enlightening because I found myself through the songs. I got back to basics with American Love,” he says of the album “This is me, this is what I want to say and this is what I want people to remember me for.”

For the first time in his career, Owen had a hand in producing three of the album’s 11 tracks — “VW Van,” “Good Company” and “When You Love Someone” with Lukas Bracewell. Two of those three tracks feature Owen’s new horn section and show the singer’s ability to try something different while never deterring from who he is as an artist.

Now five albums into his career, American Love sounds most authentically Owen. He has said that this is the type of record he wants people to remember him for and he more than accomplishes just this. Full of diversity, American Love shows the many sides of his personality and all the while gives fans the perfect summer album for their busy lives. Whether road tripping or relaxing by the water, Owen’s American Love is a fitting soundtrack for those living out their own American lives.