Luke Bryan plays it safe on 'Crash My Party,' his new album and the follow-up to the tremendously successful 'Tailgates and Tanlines.' With the exception of the infusion of hip-hop on two songs, there is little to differentiate the two projects.

This isn't bad news, necessarily. 'That's My Kind of Night' kicks off the album, setting a tempo that the remaining 12 songs can't keep up with. Mid-tempo tracks about love and loyalty make up the bulk of 'Crash My Party.' The best come during the satisfying middle.

'Drink a Beer' is high water mark. Jim Beavers and Chris Stapleton's tribute to a lost friend is humble and personal. It feels like a song Billy Currington could make a hit, but Bryan also finds that sweet spot between sappy and silly. "Bittersweet" describes the vulnerable ballad -- a sure hit if released as a single.

'Roller Coaster' is another effective track. Bryan's love lost story comes alive in this telling, and fans of songs like 'I Don't Want This Night to End' will embrace it. Later, 'Play It Again' is remarkable. This is his best storytelling effort -- perhaps the best of his young career.

Many of the rest on Bryan's new album are either familiar or predictable, depending on one's perspective. Only one is offensive -- 'Beer in the Headlights' opens with a hailstorm of cliches before giving way to an "Oh, brother" chorus. Later, 'Shut It Down' spits out overused country touchpoints, as well ("Big blue sky, half-plowed field, bird on a fender, tractor sitting still"), but for the most part, the star gives fans what they want without singing the same song over and over again.

If there's anyone who should follow the "If it ain't broke" theory of making music, it's Bryan, a man whose star is still rising. For this reason, the lack of new ideas on 'Crash My Party' is appropriate, even if some will line up to pigeonhole him. There are hits to be found on his fourth studio album, but a lack of powerful album cuts makes the project much less exciting than one would like.

3.5 Stars

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