In 2005, stadium country king Kenny Chesney released a quietly thoughtful album called “Be As You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair)” that featured some of his best songwriting to that date.
Chesney returns to that reflective, often acoustic, place for “Life on a Rock,” out Tuesday, and again hits a high-water mark.
“Rock” finds a pirate looking at 45 and instead of disappearing hazily into a bottle of rum, he takes sobering stock.
While he has always trafficked in nostalgia, instead of simply wanting to go back in songs like “When I See This Bar” or “It’s That Time of Day,” the singer makes the bittersweet realization that even if you return to the same place with the same people, the experience might be great in its own way but it won’t ever be the same.
He also gets high in a “Coconut Tree,” in a cheeky little ditty with Willie Nelson and offers a sweet elegy to a friend on “Happy on the Hey Now (A Song for Kristi).”
Chesney being Chesney there is also some Caribbean country cowboy boilerplate including a generic duet with the Wailers and the radio-bait first single, “Pirate Flag” — the only song Chesney had no hand in writing — but in the main, he sits in his chair and whittles down his anthems until they are poignantly life-size. SARAH RODMAN
ESSENTIAL “When I See This Bar”
Kenny Chesney plays Gillette Stadium Aug. 23 and 24.