Back in February, I told you all that Brad Paisley would be releasing his new CD “This is Country Music” on May 24, 2011. (That article here.) That release date has come and gone, and as much as I like Brad, I somehow neglected getting any kind of review up about the CD. But, fortunately I have a friend who did. The review below was written by Andrew W. Griffin, and I thank him so much for sending it on for me to share with all of you.
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
It has been quite a while since I really embraced anything from West Virginia native and country superstar Brad Paisley. Back in ’03 and ’04 I was really digging Mud On the Tires, an album that featured the beautiful duet “Whiskey Lullaby,” which he performed with bluegrass fiddle star Alison Krauss.
And while that album featured the pop-culture silliness of “Celebrity”and its accompanying video featuring Seinfeldstar Jason Alexander, it was solid through-and-through. The next album, Time Well Wasted, was decent but after the annoying song “Alcohol,” played all the time, I might add, I started to see that guitar-slinging straight man was going for schtick and hamfisted singalongs. Uggh.
And over the course of the last half of the 2000’s, Paisley’s songs and forced humor grew stale. And while his guitar picking skills are impeccable, the politically-correct songs, liberal politics and sensitive-new-age-guy-in-a-pickup-and-cowboy-hat was coming across as an act and not real or heartfelt as his earlier material had been.
I decided to take another listen to Paisley’s latest work after reading a recent profile of him in The New Yorker, a magazine I subscribe to. With such a positive profile, I figured the elites found Paisley palatable. His songs appeal to folks across the board, a lot like modern NASCAR. So, is Brad Paisley, 38, a good ambassador for Southern-fried country music? A re-evaluation of the man and his music point to the fact that Brad Paisley indeed is a good ambassador. A look at his upcoming tour shows dates in Britain and Scandinavia. He’s certainly doing something right.
Just listen to “Camouflage.” The song, clocking in at about four-and-a-half minutes, is brilliant in that Paisley, who co-wrote the song with Chris Dubois, offers up a rowdy song about camouflage flags, camo-painted cars and more point to an embrace of country life and culture more than a Confederate flag.
Sings Paisley: “Well the stars and bars offend some folks and I guess I see why / nowadays there’s still a way to show your Southern pride / the only thing as patriotic, as the old red, white & blue / is green and gray and black and brown and tan all over too.”
And before it’s done, Paisley picks away, as his steel and piano players get some solo time. They really jam out there at the end.
And for those older country music fans, those who were big fans of 1980’s-era superstars Alabama, Paisley teams up with the members of that band – Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen – for a song called “Old Alabama,”which incorporates lyrics from “Mountain Music,” sung by the Alabama boys. A great, nostalgic song and one that reminds me of my childhood and the days when I was getting into modern country music. Paisley has already won me back over with just this song alone.
And what of the rest of the ambitious This Is Country Music? Considering Paisley squeezed 15 songs on this album and I’ll be danged if there aren’t some outstanding songs on here. For instance, for a beach song, “Working On a Tan,” with it’s chill-inducing surf guitar licks that would make Dick Dale proud, blows away anything Kenny Chesney has gotten stuck on his oily flip-flop. Sheryl Crow helps out on the background vocals. This song is absolutely dynamite and worthy of being called a summer song.
Paisley’s kids show up with Clint Eastwood on the galloping spaghetti-western instrumental “Eastwood,” where he gets to show off his love for twang and the western side fo
That said, Paisley heads back to the beach later in the album on “Don’t Drink the Water,” along with pal and Okie Blake Shelton. Shelton reminds us that the point of going to Mexico is not about drinkin’ agua, it’s about swilling “Corona or Tecate, and my old friend Jose” and getting together with some “sweet senoritas.” We’ve heard it before. Paisley’s pickin’ is the only thing that differentiates this with Chesney’s fare (or Toby Keith’s or Alan Jackson’s or *insert name here*).
The title track, which appropriately kicks of the disc, is an exercise in affirmation, letting his listeners know that their concerns and beliefs are “real.” It’s a decent song but not among his best.
Making the most of a moment with his significant other is the focus of the traditional-styled country ballad “New Favorite Memory.” Paisley actually sounds confident and comfortable on a song like this, where his spot-on guitar playing is more in the backseat.
The same can be said of “I Do Now,” with Paisley’s delivery equally matching the mournful steel of Randle Currie, although the strings get a little schmaltzy. A song that could have been saved for another time.
With Don Henley of The Eagles offering backup vocals on “Love Her Like She’s Leavin,’” this is a great ballad, although Henley isn’t utilized enough.
Hard economic times and the folks who face them is the subject of “A Man Don’t Have to Die” while Paisley hits some high notes, against his guitar and some peppy banjo work on the breezy “Be The Lake.”
A sippy-cup-savvy song like “Toothbrush” could have been relegated to a B-sides or “long lost songs” collection in a few years. Or, hell, sell it to Lonestar! Instead it’s pointlessly included here.
But This Is Country Music ends on a truly traditional note with “Life’s a Railway to Heaven,” a song better suited to a baritone like Josh Turner but good nevertheless with help again from Sheryl Crow, as well as mandolin courtesy of Marty Stuart. This is old-timey, wildwood gospel at its city-fied best.
Grade – A
Copyright 2011 West Marie Media*
*Reprinted with permission.
Again, thanks to Andrew for the great review! I really appreciate him.
I’ll be back later – Hope you all have a great Tuesday!