Musically dormant since 1999, Kenny Rogers has finally returned and offered fans of country music a home run. You Can’t Make Old Friends offers listeners the classic country medley: a love song, a ballad, an anthem as American as apple pie and a rousing drinking song.

The title song, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” rings true through the vocal duet between Rogers and Dolly Parton. Their voices harmonize well and reflect a real-life friendship that began after their 1983 duet and eventual number one hit, “Islands in the Stream.” “You Can’t Make Old Friends” will certainly have a wide appeal for Rogers’ and Parton’s existing audiences but the pleasant melody may not be enough to make up for the sappy, sweet lyrics, which may cause a younger audience to hit the “next” button.

“You Had to Be There” is a classic ballad. The conversation between an absentee father and his son, through the glass of a prison phone booth, is accompanied by a wonderfully melancholic tune that captures a sense of lost time between the family members. The seemingly depressing topic actually makes for a great song; it evokes a sense of American spirit that is unique to country music and reminds listeners to spend time with loved ones while they have it.

Similarly, “’Merica” uses lyrical imagery to conjure up feelings of nostalgia and American pride. The gospel choir and extended guitar solo are enough to rouse a stadium of people to sway in time and sing along. Again, this song will have a wider appeal for an older audience but it is still imbued with a widely appealing sense of pride and dignity. It reminds the American people of what the nation has gone through and what it can endure.

“Turn This World Around” is the best song on the album. Reminiscent of Eric Church, this track stands out as an energetic and intoxicating drinking song. Moreover, a closer listen to the lyrics reveals the song to be quite inspiring, praising camaraderie so compellingly that listeners will be humming the words even when the music isn’t playing.

Almost as good as “Turn This World Around” are “It’s Gonna Be Easy Now” and “Don’t Leave Me in the Night Time.” “It’s Gonna Be Easy Now” is catchy and has the makings of a good workout song, featuring edgy rhythms and hoarse vocals. The back and forth between Rogers and the chorus is an interesting way to illustrate perseverance, while the shift to a harder rock style about a minute in makes the audience get on their feet. “Don’t Leave Me In the Night Time,” featuring Buckwheat Zydeco, is enchantingly simple, capturing a happy, small town America vibe that could improve even the most stressful midterm week.

However, despite many successes, not all the songs on the album are winners.  “When You Love Someone” fails to match up to Bryan Adam’s original version or the version from the film Hope Floats.“Dreams of the San Joaquin” addresses the disappointment of immigrants who come to America to fulfill their dreams while struggling to support their families. The song has touching lyrics that effectively mix Spanish and English, but, at just over six minutes, is too long for a commercial audience and too dirge-like to attract the casual listener.

All in all, this album is an enjoyable listen, particularly for fans of Rogers’ earlier work. However, for those looking for an entry into country music, this isn’t the place to start; it’s well-done but melancholic and more geared towards die-hard country fans.

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