Hillbilly Jedi by Big & Rich

After taking a brief hiatus to each pursue solo records, Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich return with the first Big & Rich studio album in five years, the Force-fully titled Hillbilly Jedi. And for the most part, the 12-track release is as sharp as Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

First single “That’s Why I Pray,” “Last Words” and “Never Far Away” make the case for Kenny and John being the most underrated harmony singers in country, while “Born Again”—with guests Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, and its hint of Jon’s “Blaze of Glory”—proves the guys can still write a cowboy rocker.

And the Kenny-penned “Lay It All on Me” finally finds an outlet for all the musical styles bouncing around his top-hatted head.

But frenetic songs like “Get Your Game On” and “Rock the Boat” make you question if the dance party has gone on too long. While “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” was a welcome kick in the pants for country music, “Boat” feels like the hick-hop ship is taking on water.

That unfortunate pair of tunes aside, Hillbilly Jedi stands as Big & Rich’s strongest and most inspired album since Horse of a Different Color. Entertained Yoda would be.

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