Jason Aldean, who helped elevate hard rock dynamics and hip-hop conventions in contemporary country music, focuses on his rock side on his sixth studio album, "Old Boots, New Dirt."
Aldean has always pushed musical innovation with hits such as "Hicktown," ''Dirt Road Anthem" and "1994." But the new album doesn't offer the surprises of his past efforts. Downplaying his rap influences, Aldean's new tracks would have fit on a latter-day Aerosmith recording, with dirt roads replacing bright lights. He repeatedly echoes '80s hard-rock swagger on songs about partying hard ("Just Gettin' Started," ''Gonna Know We Were Here"), being on the lookout for a new "girl" ("Sweet Little Somethin''') and emphasizing sex rather than romance ("Burnin' It Down," ''Laid Back").
The album has several highlights: "Too Fast" shows off his vocal power and range, "Miss That Girl" reeks of regret for choices that pushed away a long-time love and "Two Night Town," with its steel guitar accents and old-school rhythms, is the best traditional country song Aldean has recorded.
But too much of "Old Boots, New Dirt" seems overly predictable, with song after song about drinking, trucks and tan young women in tight jeans dancing and flirting. For a groundbreaker like Aldean, "Old Boots, New Dirt" contains too much old and not enough new.