Luke Bryan's new Born Here Live Here Die Here album is not adequately depicted by the chosen radio singles. "What She Wants Tonight" and "One Margarita" signal another progressive mix from Bryan and producers Jeff and Jody Stevens, but the 10-song project takes nearly every opportunity to move in a different direction.

Five of the final six songs are marinated in the sweet, urban flavors associated with '80s country. "Little Less Broken This Time" longs for rhinestones as Bryan croons atop dulcet guitar tones and crisp, no-nonsense snare drum fills. The hook of "Too Drunk to Drive" — while distinctively Luke — could just as easily have fit on any early George Strait album. You imagine Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton flashing furtive glances at one another during "Where Are We Going," a love song built upon unapologetic strings.

"For a Boat" is the kind of classic country storytelling so frequently longed for by those who recall the good ole days.

"I grew up pretty lucky as far as lucky goes / Too broke for a boat," Bryan sings during a signature song on Born Here Live Here Die Here. Fishing songs that aren't really about fishing hold a special place in the country canon, and Randy Montana and co. have penned a good one.

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Those who appreciate the sound of "Knockin' Boots" will appreciate this album in its entirety the most, but at times, Team Luke hedges, as if unsure how far into a neo-traditional sound they should lean. So, you get the rote guitar parts on "Too Drunk to Drive" and hurried pace of "Where Are We Going." Some out-of-the-box thinking (or perhaps even a guest producer) would go a long way toward tilting the Luke Bryan we know more toward the artist he's looking to be.

Still, the country veteran deserves credit for truly trying something new on this album, his seventh and first since What Makes You Country in 2017. Born Here Live Here Die Here is an artistic statement from a guy whose only sin is often trying to please everyone. Some of his fans may not like this album, but others will protect it as his best until the end of time. That's what good artists do.

Capitol Nashville

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