Brad Paisley is not one of the leading figures in country music for no reason. He has always pushed the envelope of the genre with his music, introducing issues that were usually not discussed in song and making the umbrella of the country music genre even wider, engulfing more themes.
On his last album, “American Saturday Night”, Brad dealt with social issues we all live through but don’t really consider, such as looking at the younger generation and seeing all of the advances they have and we lacked (the song in question is Welcome To The Future).
He doesn’t stray far from that in This Is Country Music, an album that starts with the song of the same name where Brad says country music is the only genre where the word “cancer” is mentioned in a song and goes on into a segue of country music classics (Stand By Your Man, Take Me Home Country Roads, etc…)
On Old Alabama, Brad tells the story of a date with a girl whose idea of a perfect date is not one that involves high-end meals but a simple drive around in a truck listening to Alabama. It’s the song for everyone whose woman is not a high-maintenance gal. The country band Alabama is featured on it.
A Man Don’t Have To Die is a haunting song about the hardships in life and is probably one of the album’s highlights. It starts by describing a priest telling people that hell exists. Brad then comes in to say that we don’t need the priest to tell us this because some of us go things in life that make our life a living hell: when you get fired, when you find out you’re all alone in life, etc… “you don’t have to die to go to hell”.
Camouflage is a smart song, which would have fitted nicely with Brad’s previous album, saying how camouflage is Brad’s favorite color: makes you fit in where you can’t, makes you irresistible for a redneck girl…
And the comes Remind Me, the duet with Carrie Underwood. To say this song is brilliant would be an understatement. It is about a couple rekindling their romance and it is just perfect. You’d expect a song with such a theme to be sadder somehow but it confuses you by being a mid-tempo power ballad. The lyrics are top notch, even the repetition of the words “remind me” don’t come off as grating because it blends very well in the overall body of work. Brad holds his own next to the soaring vocals of Carrie Underwood, making for another – if not the – album highlight. You can check out my full Remind Me review here.
On Working On A Tan, Brad describes a girl soaking in the sun, doing exactly what the title says. Meanwhile, the boys are at the gym working out, wanting to go to the beach just because she’s there working on a tan, with everyone’s tongues hanging out but she doesn’t give a damn.
Love Her Like She’s Leaving is another ballad, featuring Don Henley, that starts with a couple’s wedding and how he’ll never forget how the bride’s uncle told him to “love her like she’s leaving, like it’s all gonna end if he don’t”. Definitely another album highlight, an absolutely brilliant song.
One Of Those Lives is the story of one of those days where you think everything’s going wrong: you rush out and there’s traffic, get chewed by the boss. And then you receive a phone call that your friend’s little boy had a cancer relapse only realizing that while you had one of those days, the boy has had one of those lives. If you don’t feel compassion when you hear this, you need to listen again. An amazing ballad.
On Toothbrush, Brad paints a family portrait that all starts with a toothbrush: it all starts with a toothbursh, a splash of after-shave before leaving for a first date… long kiss goodnight… ultimately leading to a marriage and some kids. Brad sings that everything starts as a little thing, needing room to grow. It all starts with a toothbrush.
Be The Lake is the dirty joke song Brad loves to have on every album. On his previous album, American Saturday Night, it was Water (Daytona beach on spring break/ Eighteen girls up on stage/ White t-shirts about to sprayed with water). On Be The Lake, the girl is swimming and Brad is wishing he could be the lake that she’s swimming in.
Eastwood is a song featuring the directing/acting legend Clint Eastwood. It starts off by Brad’s little boy asking: “hey, what about western?” to which Clint replies: “You want western? Well, this is western!” before pure western music, taken out of a cowboy movie, starts playing. Eastwood is mostly an instrumental track, with Brad, a very strong guitarist, bringing it while Clint Eastwood whistles in the background. It ends by Brad telling Clint: “good job,” the latter replying: “thanks Brad, now I’ve tried everything.”
New Favorite Memory is about a couple going through many scenarios, each time ending with the man telling the woman to stop so he could let it sink it, his favorite memory of her. It is a ballad about a tender love that holds nothing back.
Don’t Drink The Water is a conversation between two guys (the other one being country star Blake Shelton) about going down to Mexico for a vacation. They have some sweet ladies that are more than glad to meet you – but don’t dare to drink the water there.
I Do Now is a song about a man regretting the mistakes he did with his wife. How he’d give anything to go back in time somehow so he wouldn’t break her heart and the vows he made to her and tell her, right in the moment he said I do, that “I do now”.
The last song on the album, Life’s Railway To Heaven, is more on the Christian-side of things where Brad, along with Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson sing, to a prominent banjo and fiddle background, “blessed the savior that will guide us till we reach that blissful shore, where the angels wait to join us in God’s praise forevermore”.
Brad Paisley, one of country music’s superstars, has the bar set very high for him whenever he wants to release anything. And he hits the bar and more with his eighth album, This Is Country Music. The album serves as a book, each song being a chapter. It’s very cohesive and entertaining. Some said the album could do without a few tracks. But when you look at the collective work that this album presents, you can’t but feel that is is complete as is. How so? When you listen to the album’s first single, many themes are brought up, saying that country music tackles all of these issues. The album serves as a way to tackle the issues that the first single presents. Many have said it is not Brad’s best single – and I agree. But it serves its purpose of being introductory to an album that shows what is country music.
What’s great about this album is that it is real without being pretentious. It doesn’t set out to be the best album ever made, even for Brad’s fans, and it doesn’t include songs that you need to over-analyze to understand. It’s an album about life, freedom, marriage, love, as simple as it may be.
Brad’s fans will love this. Those who are apprehensive will find themselves tapping their toes to some of the songs but everyone will find a song to which they can relate because, at the end of the day, this is country music and it tells the story of your life.