Jason Aldean, "Night Train" (Broken Bow)

Jason Aldean blends hard-rock sonics with country music themes better than any of his contemporaries, as he proves once again on his fifth album, "Night Train."

But his multi-platinum success depends just as much on his willingness to break formulas and take chances. Aldean has made every album with producer Michael Knox as well as with his road band backing him in the studio. That symbiotic relationship keeps getting tighter and more ferocious with each outing. It gives Aldean's music an edge lacking in most current Nashville country rockers.

"Night Train" shows how confident the singer is in his crew. There's the fierce guitar squawks set against the arena-rock drum beats in the chorus of "Feel That Again." There's the Zeppelin-style acoustic opening of "Wheels Rollin'," which also features an imaginative guitar solo. And a synthesized carnival sound pops up behind the rocking arrangement of "This Nothin' Town."

No one else in country music is creating music that sounds anything like these songs. That distinct quality runs like a high-watt third rail through "Night Train" — and explains why Aldean has electrified the American heartland with his music.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: As much as Aldean has tested the conventions of country music in recent years, nothing comes close to the nerve it took to cut "1994." It's not just the Aerosmith-to-Kid Rock-to-Colt Ford rap rock in the verses, but the hilariously goofy turn he takes in the chorus, which chants the name of a '90s country star: "Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie!"