Entertainment Weekly - "Chris Stapleton adds some swagger to 'If He Ain't Gonna Love You,' and Hillary Lindsey adds smokey harmonies to the piano and regret-soaked 'When You Love Someone.'"
Personnel: Jake Owen (background vocals); Lukas Bracewell (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, nylon-string guitar, banjo, ukulele, programming); Danny Rader (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tres, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ, synthesizer); Ross Copperman (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, programming, background vocals); Luke Laird (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, programming); Derek Wells (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Josh Osborne (acoustic guitar, background vocals); David Wallace, Rob McNelley (electric guitar); Joseph Arick (harmonica, piano, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards, programming); Jovan Quallo (saxophone); Scotty Huff (trumpet); Josh Scalf (trombone); Matt Stanfield (piano, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards); Fred Eltringham (drums, percussion, loops); Myron Howell, Nir Z., Aaron Sterling (drums, percussion); Ryan Gore (tambourine); Erin McCarley, Stephanie Chapman, Chris Stapleton, Jaren Johnston, Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally (background vocals).
Photographer: Joseph Llanes.
American Love arrives three years after 2013's Days of Gold -- not an exceptionally protracted delay but long enough to suggest there was some behind-the-scenes tinkering afoot, a suspicion supported by the fleet rise and fall of "Real Life" in 2015. That single isn't on American Love but it's not missed, not with Jake Owen returning to the sunny disposition that marked his big breakthrough, Barefoot Blue Jean Night. On the whole, American Love isn't as strident as that 2011 album, a record so gleaming it generated a glare when it hit direct sunlight, but its relative mellowness masquerades a certain slyness in its construction. This album may flow easy but it has some modern tricks: "After Midnight" pulsates to its throwback analog synths, "Good Company" glides upon a beach breeze, and "If He Ain't Gonna Love You" bounces along to a disco beat that is barely disguised. These selections, strategically sequenced throughout the record, reveal a livelier, savvier country than the bro country that Owen mined on his earlier records. Make no mistake, he'll still crank up the amplifiers and turn out arena-filling anthems, but even those tunes contain a slight air of maturation; it's party music with a bittersweet streak. It's an appealing blend of moods that Owen accentuates by modulating his delivery, choosing to lie back instead of lean into the songs, a tactic that gives the lighter moments a melancholy pull and the ballads a bit of grace. Often, the best moments of American Love are the softest: a sunbleached slice of regret called "LAX," the skillful adult contemporary pop of "You Ain't Going Nowhere," and the slow churn of "Where I Am," each of which benefits from Owen's light touch, which now feels weathered, not boyish. Even so, this light weariness is a grace note to an album that ultimately is about sunlit good times, but it's enough to give American Love some resonance. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine