For some reason, I didn’t expect Kenny Chesney to be on this list. I don’t know why. I enjoy his music, I think he has his finger on the pulse of a certain kind of country fan. He’s not bro country, nor is he beach country. He feels a lot like John Denver’s Windsong album. It’s about country people who moved to the city or drive hybrids. It’s not a bad thing, but it feels that way.
Also, this unlocked some high school feelings because this album came out while I was in high school. As the Rolling Stone article reminds, Chesney is good at nostalgia and tearjerkers. He is also good at talking about the joy of success. Whether it is a life well lived (The Good Stuff), the joy of relaxation (No Shoes..), or the fame and fortune (Big Star).
From a rural theologian’s perspective, this album offers opportunities. Chesney, while nostalgic, isn’t longing for a golden return with this album. He’s being real about the things he would do differently (A lot of Things Different) and that you can’t go back, but you have your memories to give you hope in the new part of life (Never Gonna Feel Like that Again).
His songs remind us that our memories, our music, and our heritage give us strength if we let them. We can be pulled backward by our anxieties, wishes for a past, or a lost future, or we can trust God enough to read the scriptures, our histories, and our lives with a hope that we can move forward. Chesney reminds us, in a very Ecclesiastes way, to enjoy life, remember the past, and to seek out what matters.
From a practical perspective:
“Big Star” reminds us to work hard, know our passion, and be true to ourselves. It’s not a faith-oriented song, and yet, it points us toward a trust that we have a future that waits for us. In our lives, what are the futures we think we (as individuals and communities) might be called to, and what are we willing to do, give up, and overcome to get there? Many people and churches need a push to start that journey.
“Never Gonna Feel Like that Again” and “A lot of Things Different” are the reminders that our memories are valuable, but they are not our future. We can use them to give us the strength to live into whatever comes next but, we cannot let them overcome us. When we think of memories and heritage, what are the memories that give us strength? What are the memories that might hold us back? How can we use them to build the future?
Finally, the title track “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” is a sabbath song if there ever was one. However, it could easily become a flaky “take a nap” song if it didn’t pair so well with the rest of the album. It is the most, “nothing matters” songs, but, when paired with the whole album, brings into focus what matters. The lyrics, “no boss, no clocks, no stress, no dress code” point out the things that burden us, and point us take time to enjoy what matters.
Now, of course our faith, family, and community matter. What I see coming from a spiritual and practical approach, is taking time to breath, rest, and talk about the memories and the opportunities that await. Likely not a sermon, but a more like a cookout, bonfire, or other space of rest and disruption. Talk about the memories, the hopes, and what we can do to live into the beauty that the future holds.
Let me know your thoughts!
Here’s a playlist of my three favorite songs from each album I’ve posted on so far:
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