David Raposa: Before I get to agushin’, there’s plenty about this song that bugs the shit out me; for instance, while I’m all for locker room camaraderie, that “back against the wall” stuff is taking things a bit too far. And those moments when I can envision a shot of Chesney righteously strumming his guitar against a sunset background transitioning to slo-mo scrimmage footage are just too much. Still, there’s something charming about this tune’s unapologetic corniness that makes me wish I was on those sidelines, smacking some kid upside his helmet as he ran out to the huddle with the next play. I’ll put the over/under for TSJ Friday Night Lights shout-outs at 4 (not counting mine), but this quaint slice of the simple sports life reminds me more of Hoosiers.
Chuck Eddy: Friday Night Lights country, revolving around high school football (a subgenre I’d have no problem at all hearing more of), like Brooks & Dunn’s “Indian Summer” and Lee Brice’s “Sumter County Friday Night”. Also, a better would-be Don Henley update than Jessie James’s “Boys In The Summer.” It’s also six and a half minutes long — unheard of for a country single. And, this being Chesney, bittersweet, of course. Effectively so.
Frank Kogan: Chesney is lightly pleasant, as always, but the brown autumnal arrangement saturates this track so thoroughly it’s as inert as a photograph – feels like an old scrapbook, not like football.
Alex Ostroff: The texture is nice and his voice is warm, but he fails to give us anything to connect with. There’s a frustrating lack of specific moments, people or memories that would elevate “The Boys of Fall” from general nostalgia to something personal and real.
Martin Skidmore: Oddly its lyric is often defiant and heroic, but the mood is wistful and sombre: I kept expecting something in the words to suggest the thrill of playing for the school is illusory or transient or the narrator’s life has fallen into some Angstromesque search for that former greatness, but it’s not there. Still, this disconnect is at least interesting, which Kenny often isn’t.
Michaelangelo Matos: Why people think country music is full of simple-minded nostalgia.
Anthony Easton: Being focused on tomorrow, and the corrective of a toxic nostalgia which reduces the cult of American homosociality into a autoerotic obsession of what would never be is one of Chesney’s major themes,and this obviously does not change in this track, though it’s more about sports than rock and roll. That said, there is something so tender and sweet about his desire to be 17 again that I find myself caught up. I wanna be a boy like that, and I wanna be a man who remembers what it means to be a boy like that. Which means there is an effectiveness to this.
Alfred Soto: American men are more given to autumnal kitsch than the sweethearts who supposedly pine for the boys of fall, so I don’t expect Chesney’s voice to slice through this corn like Miranda Lambert or Lee Ann Womack’s; in fact, Chesney celebrates being famous in the kind of small town that Lambert found so repellent. So allow this hunky Anglo-Saxon lout his pretty acoustic mythos — one more time, and no worse than the dozen others he’s proffered.