Album Review: Jason Aldean’s ‘They Don’t Know’

Jason Aldean will release his seventh studio album on Sept. 9 with They Don’t Know. The accompanying 15-tracks mark a return to Aldean’s roots with several up-tempo songs that are easy to envision in the live setting as well as a handful of emotional ballads that tug on the heartstrings. As first single and 17th career No. 1 hit “Lights Come On” can attest, Aldean and his band are back and better than ever.

“I’m super-proud of my last couple of records, but I always thought they could use a couple more of those big, up-tempo songs like ‘She’s Country’ or ‘My Kind of Party,’” Aldean says. “So one goal going in this time was to find some of those big songs—and I think we got ‘em.”

Songs like album opener “Lights Come On” ignite the fire. The single actually came to him last minute from Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard who co-wrote the song. As Aldean has explained, he knew he had to cut the track upon his first listen and it makes perfect sense why as the energetic song begins with a guitar lick that immediately grabs the listener and is a return to the up-tempo music fans know and love from the singer.

Current single, “A Little More Summertime,” follows suit and proves a fitting radio release as Labor Day weekend comes to a close and we’re all wishing to extend the season. A song that showcases Aldean’s ability to segue effortlessly from a more up-tempo track to a soaring ballad, the emotion is felt on every word he sings. Written by Jerry Flowers, Tony Martin and Wendell Mobley, “A Little More Summertime” is one of the standout moments on the album.

Album artwork courtesy Greenroom PR

Album artwork courtesy Greenroom PR

“‘A Little More Summertime’ really hit me the first time I heard it,” Aldean said in a press release. “It’s always been about the vibe of a song for me. So when that chorus hits and the song takes off, I knew it had to be on this album.”

Additional highlights include the poignant “This Plane Don’t Go There” which brings to mind Gary Allan’s “Watching Airplanes” as Aldean wishes he could go back in time and fix things with an ex before he hops on another plane. Meanwhile, the striking duet “First Time Again” with Kelsea Ballerini demonstrates Aldean’s sentimental side. A memorable ballad, the song is heartfelt and full of aching as a couple lament of the difficulties after a breakup. Whether he’s seeing her with someone new or she’s hearing their song at a party, the hurt is felt equally as Aldean and Ballerini trade verses and share harmonies on the commanding ballad.

While “Bad,” “Comin’ In Hot” and “One We Won’t Forget” show off Aldean’s sexy side, it is on the title track that he leaves the greatest mark. “They Don’t Know” recalls his previous 2012 hit “Flyover States” as he stands up for those hard working blue-collar men and women who grew up in small, two-lane towns like himself.

“It ain’t just another field, just another park, no it’s the ground we grew up on / They think it’s a middle of nowhere place where we take it slow but they don’t know,” he sings along soaring guitar parts.

Longtime producer Michael Knox is at the helm of Aldean’s seventh studio album. Additionally, Aldean’s band plays on each song making for more of a live album feel. As a result, They Don’t Know exemplifies Aldean’s ability to rock an arena with guitar-driven, up-tempo songs while at the same time leaves a lasting mark with heartfelt ballads about love, loss and one’s hometown. It’s an album that returns to his roots but also charges forward the only way Aldean knows how: by laying it all on the line for the listener.