Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brad Paisley – This Is Country Music (CD Review)

Brad Paisley – This Is Country Music (CD Review)


1. This is Country Music 2. Old Alabama 3. A Man Don't Have to Die 4. Camouflage
5. Remind Me 6. Working On a Tan 7. Love Her Like She's Leavin' 8.One of Those Lives
9.Toothbrush 10. Be the Lake 11. Eastwood 12. New Favorite Memory 13. Don't Drink the Water
14. I Do Now 15. Life's Railway to Heaven

Label – RCA / Sony Music
Catalog UPC - 88697832742
Time - 64:49
Release Date - May 24, 2011
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THIS IS COUNTRY MUSIC is the ninth studio album for Brad Paisley and with its title he makes a bold statement, he says “It gave me a mission “. His intensions were to capture many of the things that he loved about the genre when growing up, the music he listened to, and what he deems country music to be.

The title cut co-written with his long-time collaborator friend Chris DuBois was the first song written for this 15-track recording, produced by Frank Rogers. This was the first single and it charted at #2 on Billboard and as the holder of the Entertainer of the Year at the 2010 Country Music Association awards he performed this live. The instrumentation has a solid country sound and incorporates all the ingredients like “mama”, losing and finding love and patriotism - “The comfort zones for country music musicians and fanssays Paisley. The objectives in this hour long album being: “This is real; this is your life in a song”. This track also addresses topics that aren’t “cool” with it opening lines: You're not supposed to say the word "cancer" in a song. And tellin' folks Jesus is the answer can rub 'em wrong. It ain't hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, and mama, yeah that might be true. But this is country music and we do.
It ends by name-checking 8 of the most recognized songs in country music from yesteryear.

The second single and chart topping toe-tapper ‘Old Alabama’ pays tribute to one of the legends and all time top groups in country music. Randy Owen and the Fort Payne boys pitch in with a few lines of Mountain Music and the song cleverly references to a handful of Alabama’s 80’s hits (‘Why Lady Why’, ‘Feels So Right’ ‘Love in the First Degree’ and ‘Dixieland Delight’). As the southern country girl in her cut-off jeans hits the back roads Paisley takes in the Dixieland delight and with the windows rolled down lets rip on his trademark twangy Telecaster. After some full-on fiddles, yee-haws and electrifying guitar licks surely it’s a wrap? So why the pointless reprise of the title cut at the end and thrice more as we continue on.

A Man Don’t Have To Die’, written by Rivers Rutherford, George Teren and Josh Thompson relates the story of an unemployed man whose just missed the boat on a gold watch from a stingy employer and struggles to make the payments on a house he can’t sell - he’s as broken as his marriage. He needs no words of wisdom from the new in town preacher man – “a man don't have to die to go to hell”

On the fast-paced and energetic ‘Camouflage’ we learn with typically Brad wit, it’s his favourite colour. Prom date Penny has gone for matching tux and a gown from Duckline Mossy Oak and pal Kevin has painted up his Chevy Cavalier. You can blend in the country but stand out in the fashion world and be irresistible to a red-necked girl! Paisley as a top guitar slinger quite rightly allows for a self-indulgent solo, but its liveliness adds to the mix and doesn’t overwhelm with fiddle, pedal steel and piano also taking centre stage.

A couple recapturing the passion of their early days on the latest single ‘Remind Me’: “So on fire, so in love. Way back when we couldn't get enough”. On this conversational piece Brad call up his best friend in the industry Carrie Underwood to duet. From its delicate get-go the arrangement becomes rather cluttered as drums are too forward and the guitar leads seem a little misguided. As the intensity increases the vocalists begin to compete rather than compliment.

A girl student gives studies and her grade point averages a miss; she doesn’t give a damn on the surf-rock number ‘Working On Tan’. For those working, Brad rubs it in, whilst the Kappa Sig boys join the open mouthed crowd to watch the beauty sitting in the sand. With its Beach Boy-like harmonies and guitar riffs in the vein of the Bobby Fuller’s ‘I Fought The Law’ this is like a rewind to the 60’s era.

Uncle Bill” gives useful advice to the groom on the affectionate wedding song ‘Love Her Like She's Leavin', knowing the beautiful bride could have the pick of any man. The track flows along in delightful Eagles-like mode and Paisley recruits Don Henley to harmonize and sing the very last line.

On the outstanding ‘One Of Those Lives’ with its chords one wonders why Henley didn’t stick around because it has more than a passing resemblance to his track ‘The End Of Innocence’. A song, which features luxuriant pedal steel, was written with Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller, in which the central character curses, being stuck in traffic after a rough work day. He quickly counts his blessings when a cell phone call reminds him that a little boy’s cancer has returned. The family are heading to Target House (the specialised unit at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis) to be with him. For the family and the children it’s been one of those lives, for him, its just one of those days.

The twee but charming ‘Toothbrush’ describes how love starts from such little things and tiny steps. After getting spruced up for a first date, romance blossoms and the couple secretly sneak away to wed and start their lives together in a small house on the outskirts of town. Before they know it the cycle is completed when their small son is lifted onto the bathroom stool with “the Crest and a Dixie Cup “to learn his good oral habits!

The humour and beach-like thoughts return on the summer time song ‘Be The Lake’ when the protagonist has a multiple choice wish list. He could be the lake the beautiful girl swims in or cheekily the towel she’s laid on, the 2-piece that fits so snuggly or the book laid upon her chest. The studio band have fun with the musicians interplaying, something of an album filler, but would work really great out on the road.
So there’s one bona fide aspect of country missing? “Hey what about western?” chirp Paisleys two young boys Huck and Jasper at the start of the atmospheric instrumental spoof ‘Eastwood’. No stranger to “Celebrity” Brad calls up Clint Eastwood to provide the answer “You want western, this is western”. After the voiceover he adds further credence with the whistle parts in the manner Ennio Morricone would have proud of on 1966 ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. Brad and his wife Kimberly actually honeymooned at Clint’s California ranch.

New Favorite Memory’ is a gentle, sensitive love song and has me reaching for the replay button after it ends. It flows along gracefully as a husband takes snapshots with an invisible camera to capture looks and smiles of his wife that light up any room and remind him why he fell for her. The arrangement is tasteful and Paisley’s vocal drips with sincerity.

Don’t Drink The Water’ has western and Tex-Mex spins. Guidance is offered from a travel agent for a trip across the border to Mexico. Blake Shelton joins Paisley as his duet partner on his humourous jaunt. The Senoritas might be sweet but the water isn’t. He passes up the trip, because he just needs a sip, of something that’s got a kick, to get a woman off his mind!

Regret echoes loudly on the stone cold country heartache ballad ‘I Do Now’. The cheating husband now knows why broken folks wind up in the daytime bar, wishes he could turn back the clock and had been more attentive at his wedding with the words: Standing before God and all our friends, In that little church
Barely listening to a thing that preacher said, Just repeating every word / I didn't have a clue what it all meant

We reach the blissful shore as gospel and bluegrass come to fore on the traditional ‘Life’s Railway to Heaven’. Rural harmonics are provided by guests Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson. With dobro, banjo, fiddle and mandolin (Stuart) evident it’s a final thumbs up to the traditionalist core of country.

So did we turn it on, turn it up, and sing along or did we hit the buffers on route? Well it is somewhat similar to past outings and rather formulaic with its paint by numbers approach. It does however contain several noteworthy highlights and it clearly sounds like country music to me.


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