Luke Bryan, "Kill the Lights" (Capitol Nashville)
On the songs "Fast" and "Way Way Back," from Luke Bryan's new album "Kill the Lights," the perpetually upbeat star takes his first steps toward acknowledging the complexities that come with maturity.
Country music's reigning entertainer of the year, Bryan fills stadiums with rhythm-driven, good-time songs about partying, friendship, love and the rural lifestyle. He doesn't divert far from that path on his fifth album: songs like the escapist hit "Kick the Dust Up" and the down-home "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day" could fit on any Bryan collection.
At age 39, however, the Georgia native is expanding his themes and sound, with help from longtime producer Jeff Stevens and his son, Jody Stevens. Bryan loads the album with seductive love songs: "Strip It Down," ''Love It Gone" and "Home Alone Tonight," an engaging duet with Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild, all deal with moving an evening from social to sexual. He also tackles disappointment on "Razor Blade" and nostalgia for his youth on "Fast."
Bryan isn't taking any big left turns with "Kill the Lights," but he is showing he can grow in ways that reflect his age and experience.