My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘American Saturday Night’

Brad Paisley’s 5th Gear album marked the beginning of a subtle shift to a more contemporary sound, a trend that continued with his follow-up album, 2009’s American Saturday Night, his least traditional-sounding album to date. The familiar tongue-in-cheek pick-up tunes, semi-rowdy party and fishing songs, and odes to domestic harmony are still present, but the electric guitars are amped up a little more than on previous albums. The end result is somewhat of a mixed bag; there are plenty of enjoyable moments but overall the album is the weakest in Paisley’s catalog.

Brad co-wrote all of the songs on the album, many of them with long-time collaborators Chris DuBois (who is also credited as executive producer), Ashley Gorley, Kelly Lovelace and Tim Owens. Although this group of songwriters has served Paisley well over the past decade, his continued reliance on them is the most fundamental flaw of this album. This time around, they seem to have run out of things to say, and as a result, much of American Saturday Night is a rehash of previous Paisley albums. The lead single “Then” is virtually a reincarnation of “She’s Everything” from 2005’s Time Well Wasted; “Water” seems to be a slightly less crass version of “Ticks”, and “Anything Like Me” is strikingly similar to “Letter To Me.” This play-it-safe approach worked well as far as radio was concerned; all of these tracks made it to either #1 or #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and “Then” was certified platinum for digital sales exceeding one million downloads.

The singles “American Saturday Night” and “Welcome To The Future” are more original. The former is a celebration of the melting pot that is America and is my favorite of the cuts that were released to radio. “Welcome To The Future” received a lot of attention when it was released for its reference to the historic 2008 US presidential election. The song doesn’t quite work because it attempts to tie a breakthrough moment in race relations to the marvels of modern technology that dominate the first half of the song. Though the writers undoubtedly had good intentions, the triumph over decades of social injustice is trivialized by the comparison to smart phone apps and video conferencing.

Not only does American Saturday Night borrow heavily from the themes explored in Brad’s previous albums, it also relies on some of the same production gimmicks, namely the rowdy party chorus on the end of “Catch All The Fish”. While this may have worked well on previous records such as “Alcohol” and “I’m Gonna Miss Her”, it seems like out of place here. How many people can there possibly be on board that fishing boat anyway? But despite the production misstep, “Catch All The Fish” is one of the best tracks on the album,with some excellent steel guitar and fiddle playing by Randal Currie and Justin Williamson, respectively. Ditto for “The Pants.” Another favorite is “No”, which was co-written by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall. Although it is bound to invite some comparisons to Garth Brooks’ “Unanswered Prayers”, it at least explores some territory that is uncharted for Brad.

Despite its flaws, American Saturday Night is not a bad album, but it seems doomed to become one of Brad’s least memorable albums due to its lack of originality. Most of what he has to say here, he has said before, and more effectively. For his next project, I’d like to see him to take a few more risks instead of playing it safe, and perhaps engage the talents of some outside songwriters in order to gain a fresh perspective.

American Saturday Night is widely available from retailers such as Amazon and iTunes.

Grade: B-

9 responses to “Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘American Saturday Night’

  1. idlewildsouth November 26, 2010 at 10:19 am

    What seems to be missed in a lot of reviews of “Welcome To The Future” is that the 2nd verse isn’t about technological advances. The point of the video conference is to demonstrate the mending of relations between the US and Japan.

    • Razor X November 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      I hadn’t thought of it that way; I was more focused on the fact that the only means of communication during WWII was via the mail and now it’s quite commonplace to hold video conferences.

  2. J.R. Journey November 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I didn’t ever make that connection. I always thought the part about ‘video-conferencing with a company in Tokyo’ was in contrast to the fact that his grandparents used the U.S.P.S. snail mail to communicate during WW2, but I guess you could be right.

    This album isn’t my favorite from Paisley – and it took me over a year to even buy it. Razor is definitely correct that so many of these songs seem to be re-salted leftovers from previous releases, right down to the melodies and the themes. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad album, just unoriginal and forgettable after its initial run.

  3. Occasional Hope November 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    This album just feels uninspired all round.

  4. Leeann Ward November 26, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    It’s my favorite just behind and sometimes equal to Time Well Wasted. I really don’t like “No” and “The Pants” though.

  5. Leeann Ward November 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    And Fifth Gear is his worst album for me.

  6. bob November 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Me three on 5th Gear but I do like ASN – favorite songs are “Welcome to the Future”, “Oh Yeah, You’re Gone” and “ASN”. I’d like to hear “Then” covered by a better vocalist but I guess it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever.

  7. Leeann Ward December 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I don’t like “Then” by anyone, I’m sure, but my favorite song on the album is “Everybody’s Here.”

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