Jake Owen, "Days of Gold" (RCA)
Since his first album in 2006, Jake Owens has struggled to separate himself from the deluge of good-time male rockers to emerge in country music in recent years. His fourth album, "Days of Gold," continues his streak of inconsistency, blending effective slice-of-life songs with generic tunes about partying and drinking.
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As a vocalist, Owen displays more nuance and power than in the past. The problem is that some of his best performances come on songs steeped in contemporary Nashville clichés.
The high alcohol content "Tall Glass of Something" makes rhymes out of names of popular cocktails and sugary shooters -- wasting a distinctively fun arrangement by producer Joey Moi. Similarly, "1972" fills its lyrics with names of classic rock acts and hit songs from 40 years ago.
Owen shows he can find songs that occasionally step away from the bar: He instills desperation and tension into "One Little Kiss (Never Killed Nobody)" and "Drivin' All Night." Unlike the party tunes, these songs include consequences to his actions -- and suggest Owen might distinguish himself by going in a different direction than most of his peers.