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CD REVIEW: "This Is Country Music" by Brad Paisley

Andrew W. Griffin
"This Is Country Music" by Brad Paisley
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CD REVIEW:  Brad Paisley – This Is Country Music  (2011)
 Sony Nashville

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 Seinfeld
star 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

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

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
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.

UPDATE (7/20/11): Something I absentmindedly forgot to note here was the terrific duet Paisley performs with Checotah, Okla. native Carrie Underwood called "Remind Me." It gets better as it builds and gets better with each listen. A great single, too!

Grade - A

Copyright 2011 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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