“Moonlit truck bed/Two kids, enough said,” sings Jason Aldean in “If My Truck Could Talk,” and those last two words aren’t just a nostalgic insinuation — they’re a dodge, letting him avoid saying more than the bare minimum before moving on. “Old Boots, New Dirt” is likewise all ambition and no boldness, a solidly constructed modern country album without much in the way of inspiration. The upbeat anthems rock joylessly, and while some toy with rare-for-the-genre sounds like electronic percussion and throbbing synths, it sounds clumsy and calculated. Aldean’s at his best in more downbeat songs like the title track; his inability to fully give himself over in weeper “Don’t Change Gone” works to his advantage, expressing heartbreak and futility while also quietly fueling it. But “Too Fast” sounds too close to “Drift Away” for comfort, from the chord changes to Aldean singing “restless soul” at the exact spot that Dobie Gray sang “free my soul.” Aldean needs to work harder than that. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Don’t Change Gone“Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.