Sunday, August 7, 2011

Album Review: Brad Paisley - This Is Country Music

I am going to be honest, I typically do not like Brad Paisley.  I admit, he is a phenomenal guitar player, and puts on a great live show, but his music lately (Namely "American Saturday Night", "Play" and parts of "5th Gear") often lacked an authentic country feel, and yes, this is coming from someone who likes Colt Ford.  Paisley's music often feels too "Poppy" to be country music, much like Taylor Swift (though her music at least comes from the heart).

All of that said, I was extremely excited for this album.  After hearing the first two singles, incidentally the first two songs on the album, it appeared that Paisley had finally returned to country music.  Unfortunately, I am just getting to reviewing it, even though it has been out since May.

This is Country Music - The title track of the album, as well as the first single, really sets the tone for the rest of the album.  Paisley begins talking about all of the things the music is not supposed to be or do, but this genre does.  "You're not supposed to say the word 'cancer' in a song/ and telling folks that Jesus is the answer
can rub 'em wrong/ It ain't hip to sing about/ Tractors, trucks, little towns or mama/ But this is country music/ and we do".  The song does a good job at providing a snapshot of what the genre is, even ending with the naming of several country songs that every fan of the genre should know.  It also highlights Brad's superior guitar skills several times.

Old Alabama - If "This Is Country Music" piqued my interest in Paisley again, "Old Alabama" hooked it.  Paisley sings about his girl, and how she is not sophisticated at all: "She'd rather wear a pair of cutoff jeans/ Than a fancy evening dress/ and with her windows rolled down/ her hair blowin' all around/ she's a hot southern mess/ She'll take a beer over white wine/ And campfire over candlelight/ and when it comes to love/ her idea of/ a romantic night/ Is listening to old Alabama".  Paisley even goes so far as to bring the subject of the band, Alabama, in to perform on the song and throws several licks from some of their hits in.  Overall, the song is fantastic, and the guest appearance only enhances it further.  Enjoy the video, which guest stars NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon:

A Man Don't Have To Die - Interestingly, this might be my favorite song on the album.  It feels the most genuine in the hard economy.  The song starts out in a church, where the congregation is tiring of the "Hellfire and Brimstone" sermons, they already know what hell is: "It's six months short of thirty years/ When the boss man lays you off/ No thankin' you/ No pair of shoes/ No shiny new gold watch/ It's payments that you can't make/ on a house that you can't sell/ See a man don't have to die to go to hell".  All the congregation is asking for is for the preacher to inspire hope, not fear.  It is something that I am sure everyone can relate to, and that is what makes this song feel like real country.

Camoflauge - Paisley shows that he is still not afraid to have fun, and he does so with several songs on the album, starting here.  It is an ode to Paisley's favorite "Color".  Comedian Larry the Cable Guy even pipes in with a couple of "Git R Done"s.  At the end, Paisley turns slight political: "Well the Stars and Bars offend some folks/ And I guess I see why/ But nowadays there's still a way/ To show your Southern Pride/ The only thing as patriotic as the old Red, White and Blue/ Is Green and Gray and Black and Brown and Tan all over too".

Remind Me - After hosting several CMA awards with Brad, Carrie Underwood joins him for the romantic "Remind Me", the third single from the album.  The couple has drifted apart and are trying to rekindle the love they had.  Underwood does a great job, even able to overshadow Brad and his guitar, but the two work well together, and the track is quickly climbing the charts for good reason.

Workin On A Tan - This is one of the songs that demonstrates what I do not like about Paisley, it feels out of place, especially sandwiched between the two songs it is.  It felt like it was placed here simply to
show off the guitar-playing ability of the lead singer.  The song talks about a girl on spring break, putting all of her priorities aside to go to the beach and get a bronze look.  Nothing about this song fits in well with the album, except maybe if it had been placed after "Camoflauge".

Love Her Like She's Leaving - Similar to "Waitin' On A Woman", Paisley is getting marriage advice from someone who has been there, this time at his wedding reception.  The advice is solid: "Love her like she's leaving/ Like it's all gonna end, if you don't/ Love her like she's leaving/ And I guarantee she won't"  The song is a great love ballad and I can see it being a future single from the album.

One Of Those Lives - Who has not had a bad day?  How often do we stop and think that, while things have not been too hot lately, there are many people in our lives who have it so much worse.  This song points that out, talking about a phone call from his wife on a bad day, telling him that their friends have been told their son's cancer is back: "Man it's been one of those days/ Where I've been thinkin' 'Poor Me'/ I've got no right to complain I guess/ 'Cause right now all I can see/ Is a little angel in a Yankees cap/ It makes me realize/ It's just been one of those days for me/ but for him it's been one of those lives".  Paisley shows genuine gratitude
for the positives in his life in light of this news, and it serves as a great reminder for what we can do in our own lives.

Toothbrush - The little things grow into big things, and Paisley tells us of this in a slightly goofy, but fun song.  "Love starts with a toothbrush" he tells us.  Before long, that has become getting hitched, getting a house, getting pregnant and eventually raising a son.  The chorus tells us "Anything that's anything/ Starts out as a little thing/ Just needs a little time to grow"

Be The Lake - Another fun song, Paisley is watching his girl dry off on the shore.  He thinks he has it made, but realizes that he cannot possibly get close enough. "Wish I could be the beach towel that you lay down on/
Or that two piece fitting you so right it's wrong/ or the sunshine kissin on your skin/ Wish I could be the lake that you're swimmin in".  The song does not stand out, but like so many of his songs, Paisley has created a song that is fun to drive to.

Eastwood - Clint Eastwood lends a brief spoken word ("You want western? I'll give you western"), and I believe some guitar, to this otherwise entirely instrumental track that sounds like something you might find in a John Wayne (or, obviously, Clint Eastwood) montage.  The song is obviously made to show off Paisley's guitar-picking ability, and it does so very well.

New Favorite Memory - The other complaint I would have against Paisley is that too many of his songs feels like HE has done them before.  In this case, it sounds like a rehash of "Little Moments".  The song is nice,
but does not stand out against a slew of other great songs, though it feels more heartfelt than typical Paisley.

Don't Drink The Water - The only person who likes to have more fun with his music than Paisley is fellow Country Star Blake Shelton, who joins Brad on this track.  Brad is down in the dumps after his woman leaves, but is headed to Mexico to wash the memories away.  Everyone, including Mexico veteran Shelton, has the same advice, but Brad is not worried: "Don't drink the water/ I told him 'That's Okay'/ I ain't goin' down/ to Mexico/ To drink the water anyway". As you would expect, the track is a lot of fun and humorous.  Blake and Brad work well together and we may even see this as a single in the future.

I Do Now - The fun of Mexico must have worn off, because he misses the woman who has left.  There is a lot in life that Brad did not understand before, like drinking their problems away in a bar in the middle of the day, but he does now.  He would give anything to go back to the wedding day "Lift the veil and look you in the eye/ and say 'I do now'".  Paisley has realized everything he did wrong, and just wishes he could take it back.  Once again, the genuineness missing from so many of his songs is there and you cannot help but feel sorry for him, even though he makes it clear that he made the mistakes that led him to this point.

Life's Railway To Heaven - Paisley adds a gospel-like feel to the final song on the track, comparing life to a train going through bumps, hills and valleys on it's way to heaven.  At the end of a long album, this track is rather forgettable because it does not fit in much with any of Brad's music (Except for "When I Get Where I'm Going" from Brad's "Time Well Wasted" album).  This does not mean that the song is bad, just not memorable like so many of Paisley's songs.

Overall, I was impressed with "This Is Country Music" and felt that the title track spelled it out correctly.  For the first time in several years, it feels like Paisley has made something that can genuinely be called country without sacrificing anything from his style or his guitar ability.  While the album has been out for a couple months now, if you have not picked it up yet, it is worth spending money on.  8/10

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