Brad Paisley: This Is Country Music

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Posted July 8, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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Country kid pulls star-studded and balanced country tribute out of cowboy hat on eighth studio album

“Do you like to drink a cold one on the weekend and get a little loud?,” Brad Paisley sings during the title track’s opening line of his collective tribute to “the wonderful world of country music.” It’s just one of the quirky realities that makes country music swell with imagination and has proven to be a storytelling portrait of Southern pride. As the song swirls through a maze of enchanting ups (“Do you wish someone had the nerve to tell that stupid boss of y’urs to shove it next time he yells at you?”) and downs (“Well you’re not supposed to say the word “cancer” in a song…”), Paisley finally crafts a majestic five-minute song that unfolds like a 100-mile adventure through the Tennessee Valley. Thankfully his eighth album, This Is Country Music, goes beyond the backsides of Tennessee. It picks up a few ageless hitch-hikers along the way (Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow, Marty Stuart) and tries to trace down stories from every mountain and valley decorating the Southern terrain. “Old Alabama” pays homage to Eighties country star band Alabama, solicits Randy Owen and Jeff Cook to a cameo appearance and even going for the classic “getty-up” shindig dance-off at the end. The music feels like traditional country in the more contemporary sense, but the stories are far from being predictable. On “A Man Don’t Have to Die,” Paisley sings about a burning hell on Earth while adding heat to the Baptist-styled “fire and brimstone” theology of the South. “Camouflage” cornily but peacefully masquerades an attack on the Confederate flag with a spirited uptempo jamboree (“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 humid air of “Remind Me,” a duet with Carrie Underwood, adds sweet heat to unashamed romance, while “Love Her Like She’s Leavin’” gives heartfelt advice on how to keep the flames of a “happily-ever-after” romance alive. When spicing up the atmosphere after a barrage of seriousness, he goes for occasional whisks of humor. It’s quite comical hearing famed actor/director Clint Eastwood using his ‘Dirty Harry’ persona on a country instrumental that ties the tempo of Heart’s “Barracuda” and ZZ Top’s attack with classic Western theme song music; on a song solely dedicated to him. At the end, Paisley tells him he’s done a “good job” and Eastwood, a man of many hats, replies with a sigh of relief: “Thanks, man. Now I’ve tried everything.”

During the entire ride of barroom visits, Cracker Barrel pit stops and Highway I-65 cruising, Paisley is a pro, vocally belting like a Southern stud and churning his guitar solos when needed. The album is a good-hearted effort, loaded with Southern hospitality and a nice. The album does gallop longer than most would anticipate and Paisley oftentimes doesn’t provide enough vocal attack on songs which are overshadowed sonically by the merits of his dynamo band, but This Is Country Music is a honest and respectable piece of work chronicling the finer points of a genre that still struggles with its misconceptions and exaggerations. Paisley does a damn good job at helping outsiders understand it and insiders revel in it.

J MATTHEW COBB

 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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