August 02, 2004 12:00 PM

License to Chill

“Am I country, pop or rock and roll?/ I know they’re all related/ So I’ll just let you be the judge/ It’s simply complicated,” Jimmy Buffett sings on “Simply Complicated.” As the de facto singer laureate of South Florida, Buffett has always carved his own musical niche, and he continues to do so on this infectious set, on which he teams up with Nashville stars (and Bill Withers!) for nine of 16 cuts. Buffett matches up best with the similar good-time style of Toby Keith (on the self-deprecating “Piece of Work”) and the tangy buzz of Nanci Griffith’s voice (on the upbeat torch song “Someone I Used to Love”). Throughout the album, the reggae-tinged lilt and steel-drum backing blend felicitously with the two-step bounce and steel-guitar flourishes. Not all the songs are choice; the title tune even stoops to rhyming “chill” with “Dr. Phil.” And the duet with Clint Black, “Conky Tonkin,'” seems strangely colorless. Still, Buffett remains one of the most affable, appealing talents in pop music.


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