Only the most Corona-deluded Parrothead still believes that Jimmy Buffett is just an easygoin' sea dog whose sole concerns are tidal charts and tequila shooters.
That profitable bit of posturing might have been true 30 years ago -- 1974's ode to beach-bummery, "A1A," is a breezy must on any trip to the shore. But the 57-year-old has since sacrificed his laid-back lifestyle (and the charm that goes with it) to become a tropical Trump, lording over theme restaurants, a clothing line and those sold-out summer spectacles that allow 9-to-5ers to believe they're wastin' away in paradise -- when they're choking on car fumes in Bristow, Va.
Buffett has crafted the new and unfortunately titled "License to Chill" with the same manipulative hand he uses to count his cash. Bringing the recent Buffettization of Nashville full circle, such country heavyweights as Toby Keith, George Strait and Alan Jackson show up at the slickly produced party -- most notably on a by-the-books jam of "Hey Good Lookin' " -- but their uninspired cameos ultimately play like ploys to get the big cheeseburger back on the radio, albeit with the least amount of effort.
Buffett once had a real knack for fun pop chanteys, but the title track, a duet with Kenny Chesney about scrounging up enough loose change to hit happy hour, is a cringe-inducing representation of the punny duds Mr. "Margaritaville" now excels at. The tune's inexplicably lazy line "Girls, girls, girls / There ain't nothing like 'em in the whole wide world" somehow gives Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls" newfound poignancy. As for the Clint Black-assisted "Conky Tonkin'," well, the title says it all.
Buried among the wreckage are two genuinely moving duets, one with Martina McBride ("Trip Around the Sun") and the other with Nanci Griffith ("Someone I Used to Love"). Paired with dynamite singers, Buffett gives the kind of sweet, nuanced delivery that made "Come Monday" a keeper. He also brings giddy boardwalk energy to the Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias." Of course, Buffett would love to get Deadheads mingling with Parrotheads. Those "Volcano" bongs would sell like hot cakes.