Over the years, quite present in the Nashville scene but frequently flying just under the radar, Billy Currington has established a niche for himself as a solid country singer-songwriter with just a touch of blue-eyed soul. With the release of We Are Tonight, Currington’s fifth studio effort (and his first in three years), he appears poised to take his  much-deserved place in the spotlight.

Indeed, considering that the lead single and album’s opening track “Hey, Girl” is already a Top-10 hit and a certified gold record, things bode well for the 39-year-old performer. The good news is that country music fans will find plenty more good stuff where that came from. This is a mature, diverse album that finds Currington equally at home on anthems like the title track, romantic ballads (“23 Degrees and South,” “Closer Tonight”) and humor-injected tracks like “Wingman” and “Hard to Be a Hippie,” the latter of which features an appropriate special guest appearance by country’s consummate hippie Willie Nelson. Currington appears comfortable in a variety of styles, ranging from traditional swing to his signature R&B/country hybrid, and his raspy vocals fit each of them well.

In point of fact, I’m hard-pressed to find a song on this record I didn’t enjoy at least a little bit. Perhaps the only complaint I have is not so much a matter of quality but of context—particularly, Currington’s occasional ventures into rut-worn lyrical territory. You know the drill well by now—picking up a cute girl in the bar, taking a cute girl out on the back roads in your pickup truck…all of it hit-making material, but none of it original at this point. Fortunately, Currington doesn’t stay there, but manages to find other creative territory to cover along the way. “23 Degrees and South” borrows a bit from the tropical vibe of Kenny Chesney, but at least the vehicle for getting away is a sailboat, not a pickup. And closing track “Hallelujah” is a great example of the clever lyricism that can be found throughout the album: “God is great, man is not / Man made whiskey, God made pot / God made women, we make war / But oh, a good woman, that’s worth fighting for.”

All told, We Are Tonight is a focused and well-produced record that plays to Billy Currington’s strengths and puts him in the running to be an A-list performer. Time alone will tell whether enough fans will catch on to Currington’s unique style, but this is definitely a record worthy of the attention.

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