Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews – “I’m Alive”

C.M. Wilcox | August 7th, 2009

kenny-and-daveIf there’s truth in the title of Chesney’s collaboration with collegiate favorite Dave Matthews, we’ll have to take his word for it: his performance here doesn’t have much of a pulse.

Granted, that’s partially by design. The subdued style suits the song’s content, which is all about taking a quiet break from life’s mayhem to appreciate the simple (but all-important) fact of being alive. The lyrics are nicely poetic at times, including passages like “All the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames/Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain” and “Stars are dancing on the water here tonight/It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight.” As lyrics for radio singles go, these are fairly graceful and perhaps even somewhat ambitious.

The most glaring problem is the apparent lack of connection between the two performers, owing in part to an arrangement that doesn’t give their voices much opportunity to interact. Chesney handles the first two minutes, then passes the rest of the song off to Matthews, making this sound more like two versions of the same song than an actual duet. Perhaps that’s a product of the way it was recorded, but lots of separately-recorded duets end up sounding a lot more ‘together’ than this by the time they hit the market.

If the collaboration had been managed a bit more carefully, the contrast between these two voices could have created an interesting dynamic greater than the sum of its parts–Chesney’s duet with Mac McAnally on “Down the Road” benefited from that sort of synergy. But there isn’t quite enough interplay between Chesney and Matthews here to make it happen; fleeting moments of hushed harmony aside, each man seems to be off in his own world.

The worst part is that the separation invites comparison, which is decidedly not in Chesney’s best interest: Matthews imbues his portion of the song with more depth than the self-professed ‘island boy’ (who co-wrote it with Dean Dillon and Mark Tamburino and got Willie Nelson to record it on Moment of Forever) seems able to muster. Where Chesney delivers the song like a workaday singer, Matthews caresses it like an accomplished stylist, wringing out all the best the lyrics have to offer.

Chesney is either a very giving duet partner, holding back so as to make even Dave Matthews seem inspired, or he’s just not very good at making this song sound interesting. Either way, his tepid reading of the lyrics is the main thing keeping this sleepy little song from coming to life.

Thumbs Down

Listen: Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews – “I’m Alive”

2 Pings

  1. [...] 2009 Kenny Chesney w/ Dave Matthews – “I’m Alive” Mica Roberts – “Days You Live For” Radney Foster – [...]
  2. [...] You Know How Much I Loved You” (Thumbs Up) Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews – “I’m Alive” (Thumbs Down) Lady Antebellum – “Need You Now” (Thumbs Up) Lee Brice [...]
  1. Kelly
    August 7, 2009 at 8:47 am

    “If there’s truth in the title of Chesney’s collaboration with collegiate favorite Dave Matthews, we’ll have to take his word for it: his performance here doesn’t have much of a pulse.”

    Spot on.

    I’m a big fan of Matthews and I wasnt able to even hum a part of the melody 5 seconds after the song was over when I first listened to the tracka few days ago. Forgettable.

  2. Leeann Ward
    August 7, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I’ve always been incredibly bored by Matthews, so I’m not surprised that I’m bored by this, considering who his duet partner happens to be.

  3. Clemson Brad
    August 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Agree, the song is okay….nice message…but the song is just dull.

  4. JD
    August 7, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Album filler.

  5. Mayor Jobob
    August 7, 2009 at 3:06 pm


  6. Rick
    August 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Kenny Cheesey is obviously trying to broaden his market base beyond country radio listeners and budding alcoholics. Rather than do a pop remix he’s taking a different approach than Taylor Swift to reach out and touch someone, or in this case make them comatose…

  7. Ron
    August 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I could live to 1000 and I’ll never understand the Kenny Chesney popularity. Other country stars I may not like but I can see why people like them. I just don’t get Chesney.

    As for the song, I’ve already forgotten it.

  8. Gloria
    August 7, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Ron, I’m with you!! Will never, never understand the draw to Chesney. Can’t stand to watch him or listen to him perform! I agree with the review here. Dave’s part was easier to listen to then the nasally boring Kenny. The song is just BLAH!

  9. Stephen H.
    August 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    In all honesty, the thing that annoyed me the most about the song was that there were several “life/alive” rhyme combinations. Branch out a bit, Kenny/Dean/Mark! Since they were planning on releasing it, though, and especially if this is the last single before a new album, I can understand why they split “Out Last Night” in between (as bad as that song was) so listners wouldn’t think he was completely comatose, relying on other singers to finish up his slow songs.

  10. Sam
    August 8, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I don’t understand why the song, but if you don’t get the chesney thing it is because, you, yes you, haven’t seen him in concert. Folks there is a reason he sells out NFL and college stadiums. He has sold more tickets than any other artist- in a genre this decade and has more top ten hits than any artist this decade. This song has nice lyrics, wish it had a normal kenny beat, and im still wanting more of his reggae-country-rock sound than this soft…. jazz??? Anyways if you don’t understand the man, go see him in concert.

  11. Stormy
    August 8, 2009 at 1:40 am

    I’m not in college or the NFL.

  12. Bway
    August 9, 2009 at 11:15 am

    i love the song…i’m a huge kenny fan though and like different styling of this song (for kenny anyhow)

  13. CraigR.
    August 9, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Sam I just want to say that selling a lot of seats in a NFL stadium does not an artist make- just ask The Backstreet Boys. I have also never understood the attraction to Chesney unless beer and shots make him sound better. I don’t like Toby or Trace but I can see their talent. Kenny Chesney has no charm, and no depth. This song is proof of that point. Hey you can like Chesney but in the end that won’t win you anymore than a body shot for the mind.

  14. Gloria
    August 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Sam, I’ve seen him in concert several times because I wanted to see what the hype was, but unfortunately I still don’t see the hype! I guess you would have to have had a few shots to get it! I tried but,just because he throws a big party in a stadium doesn’t make him EOTY in my book! Too many more deserving, talented artist out there. Even his award show performances are always lacking something. Sometimes you click with an artist and sometimes you don’t! I do not click with Chesney!

  15. Malhia
    August 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Sam he may have sold more tickets this decade, that is cause he has NO life and he tours all the time. Other artists have life’s, families and children and are not as one dimensional as Kenny. I find him boring as heck and wouldn’t pay a penny to see him and his overrated beach songs. He latch on to the Jimmy Buffet theme, or lets say copied it.

    Even with all the tickets sales, he doesn’t sale the albums like you would think. His biggest selling album of his career is, “When The Sun Goes Down,” at 4.2 million, that is his best of his career.

  16. Malhia
    August 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve seen him in concert, if I wasn’t with someone else would of left. Mostly I saw alot of people that were drunk at his concert. Guess you would have to be to like his concert.

  17. Noeller
    August 10, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I had been looking forward to his concert for SUCH a long time, to finally find out what all the hype was. He’s our reigning Entertainer of The Year for HOW long now?? I’ve been told “it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a Garth show now…”

    Let me tell you that I left that show HIGHLY disappointed. There are several Canadian indie bands who I would much rather have gone and seen that night instead of the Chesney show I got.

    When you can’t play guitar, don’t sing very well without auto-tune, you’d better at least put on a half decent show. I certainly didn’t get that. Kenny running from one side of the stage to the other does not make a highly entertaining show.

    Blech. And the song bored me the first time I listened to it. I’ve never understood the American fascination with Dave Mathews (he’s not big in Canada) and it continues here.

  18. Miss Leslie
    August 11, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Bob Lefsetz at touts Kenny Chesney as the new voice of rock. Personally, I think that all of his music should be viewed in that context. He’s all about the fans – he’s an everyman lyrically and he’s onstage to rock.

    I was into Dave Matthews when he released “Some Devil” and then lost interest in subsequent CDs. I love his voice.

    It’s an odd pairing of Kenny and Dave. It didn’t sound bad – just odd. In a “that’s not right way” – like if you see your Dad dressed in drag.

  19. Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Ha. If I saw my dad dressed in drag, I’d think it was both odd and bad.

  20. allison
    August 20, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    i have NEVER been a fan of dave matthews and i don’t care for kenny too much either, but i FELL IN LOVE with this song the moment i heard it. the melody is absolutely haunting. reminds me a little bit of my favorite band, NICKEL CREEK!!! :)

  21. Sunny
    August 31, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Malhia,your clueless! so clueless.

  22. Jeffiner
    September 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Wow! Appearantly if you like Kenny you are A. An alcholic, B. A stoner, or C. A waste of time for GOD to create. Or at lesset that’s what I gather by reading all these comments!!0i feel almost belittled or ashamed to say I am both a HUGE fan of Kenny AND his shows; as well as Dave Matthews, and their unlikely pairing in this song! I would also like to point out that none of the descriptions mentioned above even come close to describing my character. :) I’m tired of those who think that music cannot possibly be simply entertaining, but must be a form of art that only elite groups of individuals can detect. You know a lot of his songs remind me of my foolish high school and college years. And I take offense to the fact that someone might want to demean that in me. Nonodys perfect in this world,not even the music elitists!

  23. Stormy Lewis
    September 1, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Don’t be ridiculous–Alcoholics like Tom T Hall.

  24. Jon
    September 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Though I don’t like everything he’s done by a long shot, I like Chesney. He’s cut some great songs and pushed them hard while giving props to their writers, he supports other artists whom I like (e.g., recording a fine duet with Catherine Britt, co-producing an excellent bluegrass album by band member TIm Hensley), he knows and respects classic artists and songs, he’s a good guy, and I think he’s a capable, if not outstanding singer.

  25. Molly
    September 3, 2009 at 12:55 am

    I LOVE THIS SONG. If you need the message the song delivers, it is the perfect song. Things have been rough for me lately and now this is my new theme song. Even better? Two of my fave artists sing it! I’m a HUGE Dave fan, more so than Kenny… So I would have liked to hear more duet style… or at least another Dave verse! Its fun to see different collaborations of artists and these two go back further than this song…. just look on You Tube.

  26. mike
    September 13, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    many of you (musicians) should stick to your guitar hero and not confuse yourself with the type of excellence that Kenny and Dave provide to the rest of us.

  27. JD
    September 13, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Hey Mike, stick to this.

  28. mike
    September 14, 2009 at 8:48 am

    hey JD hows that new Beatles wish I could play the guitar for real game treating you?

  29. Scott
    September 16, 2009 at 7:52 am

    I love this song, because it is my life through the past 9 years. In the last 9 years I have lost a girlfriend to a car accident, I lost both of my Grandmothers within a year of each other, 2003 and 2004. I spent a year in Iraq, 2004 through 2005. My mother and father divorced in ’04. I lost my mother in 2007 due to diabetes at the age of 52. I just finalized a divorce of my own on July 30th of this year. And I have a 5 month old daughter that I rarely get to see. So this song is my life of survival and how easy it could be for me to give up, but I will never give up.

  30. Jenny
    September 17, 2009 at 6:14 am

    IMO, the song is great! Dave Matthews completely out sings Kenny – sorry to say. When Dave comes in, it’s like – WOW! I listen to all types of music and this is a great song.

  31. Erin
    September 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    First off this is one of my favorite songs by Chesney. I like a few of Dave Mathew’s songs but not a huge fan of his. For me this song is more about the message that is being brought out. It hits home for me. I think that was the whole point of the song.

    I have also seen Kenny in Concert. I personally had a great time. Like a few others here i find it rude for you all to describe his audience as drunks or stupid. I am a single mom with two kids. I don’t drink and I am not stupid. This guy sold 1000 copies of a self produced CD before he made it big and was picked up by a label. To me thats gotta say something. I love his music and for someone to tell me thats stupid just because they do not like it is wrong. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. I think we should not judge others for what they like or dislike.

    At least Chesney worked his rear off to get where he is. He didn’t hit it big over night like several of the new singers do these days. It took a great deal of time and effort to get where he is.

  32. KT
    October 13, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I LOVE THIS SONG! Relaxing and wow was I surprised to hear my favorite Dave come in. Beautiful. Dave rocks. Always.

  33. Stephanie
    October 13, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    As a cancer survivor, this song has much more meaning then probably would be for anyone else. Count your blessings if this song doesn’t mean anything to you!

  34. Tara
    October 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    After a loooong, stressful day at work, this song is exactly what I need. It’s simple, soothing, relaxing and helps remind me of the basics: I’m alive and well! Critical people: channel your negativity toward something more productive :)

  35. judi
    November 3, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    This is a wonderfully soothing song, so very relaxing for me…to each their own. I love it and own it.

  36. Dianna
    November 12, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Thank you Kenny and Dave! I LOVE THIS SONG!!!! The only thing that’s not perfect about it is that it’s too short!

  37. Liz
    November 12, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Agreed Dianna. This is one of Kenny’s best collaborations. Dave Matthews is a music icon. As for all you so-called “haters” YOU CARE ENOUGH TO COMMENT. This song is mellow for a reason, if you are searching for this reason, go download some Dave and get back to me.

  38. Sunny
    December 1, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I LOVE this song! I personally think it’s the best out of either one of them.

  39. Dr. No
    December 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Both are grossly overrated.


Juli Thanki on WAMU's Bluegrass Country

Tagged In This Article

// // // //

Current Discussion

  • Jack Hanford: For those who are interested, there is a new 90-minute documentary video about Tompall & the Glaser Brothers on DVD …
  • joe morris: how come nobody mentions his fan club which started 1950 and was called the " the penny pushers " which …
  • jane: I'm reading this article in 2013 and I've yet to hear anything from the album played on the radio.....
  • Catwandy: I guess Matt C. is eating his well-deserved crow 'bout now. Critics....gotta love 'em , bless their little hearts.
  • Ed McClendon: Saw the brothers in Greeley CO on the occasion of Tompall's 50th birthday. The show wasn't well promoted and there …
  • Roby Fox: I'm sure no one else will know, or even care about this little tidbit of trivia. "Keep Your Change" was …
  • kate wonders: Roni Stoneman is still on Hee Haw every Sunday night on RFD channel.
  • Marsha Blades: Tommy, You were so kind to me during a tough time in my life and I don't think I ever …
  • Leona Jones: I seen Chris at the Grand Ole Opry last week.. First time I have heard of him.. He rocked the …
  • Sonicjar Music: Agree with Lucas, But one thing is certain, for a song to come to existence, so many things have to …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • Blind Boys of Alabama - Take the High Road
  • Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band - American Legacies
  • Aaron Lewis - Town Line
  • Josh Kelly - Georgia Clay
  • The Gibson Brothers - Help My Brother
  • jesse-brewster_wrecking-ball
  • Lucinda Williams - Blessed
  • Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers - Hymns from the Hills