My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: Brad Paisley featuring Alabama – ‘Old Alabama’

While I’ve generally liked more of Brad Paisley’s music than I’ve disliked, I’m hardly what can be considered one of his superfans. Nevertheless, I’ve often defended him against hypercriticism in the blogosphere, and I’ve found myself in that position once again with the release of his latest single. “Old Alabama” isn’t a masterpiece that will profoundly change the musical landscape, but it doesn’t deserve the kind of derision it has received from some quarters. Clearly it was never meant to be anything more than a tribute to a bygone era and one its most commercially successful acts. This isn’t a record that lends itself to overanalysis; it just is what it is.

I’ve never been a huge Alabama fan but I have enjoyed a number of their songs, many of which happen to be the ones Paisley name checks. Fans who are too young to remember country music’s original supergroup in their heyday may have difficulty relating to the record, but it is sure to strike a chord with folks from Paisley’s — and my — generation, especially when the boys from Fort Payne themselves chime in for a few lines of Mountain Music”, one of their best songs. For a genre that is supposedly rooted in tradition, country music tends to underappreciate many of its legends, so it’s nice to hear a mainstream song that not only pays homage to a landmark act, but also serves as a nostalgic reminder of how country radio used to sound. Alabama was never the standard-bearer for traditional country music, but even their most slickly-produced records were rarely bland. In an age where the mainstream actively courts the Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus generation, it’s nice to hear a record that’s meant for us Generation Xers for a change. And for that, I say to Mr. Paisley, well done, sir.

Grade: B+

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12 responses to “Single Review: Brad Paisley featuring Alabama – ‘Old Alabama’

  1. J.R. Journey April 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I just can’t get into this. Paisley’s recent run of ‘songs about songs’ as Country California put it, hasn’t worn well with me. Maybe it’s because I really liked Alabama back in the day – and still do, just not as much I guess – but I think this is little more than a bastardized version of their music.

    I definitely agree it’s great to hear a song aimed at people over 25.

  2. CMW April 2, 2011 at 3:19 am

    I’m all for shining the light on Alabama, but as tributes go, this one just doesn’t strike me as particularly tastefully executed. It comes off more as a mish-mash of appropriated Alabama lyrics, musical parts, and voices than a worthy composition in itself. If this was the best he could muster, I wish Paisley would have gone with a straightforward cover (with or without band cameo) instead, which would have allowed him to pay respects without falling all over himself to remind us (again) of how clever he thinks he is.

    Just my take. I’d give it a C-.

  3. Pingback: Brad Paisley "Old Alabama" | "Old Alabama" Lyrics | Brad Paisley Music | Dixie Streams Online Radio

  4. Leeann Ward April 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I’m actually a pretty big Paisley fan, but I have to go with CMW on this one. I’ll add that the song in general seems lackluster despite the obvious attempt to be otherwise. This and his previous single aren’t making me look forward to the new album as much as I wish.

  5. Occasional Hope April 3, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I liked the last single better than this one.

  6. bob April 3, 2011 at 10:04 am

    If the first two singles are indicative of the quality of the rest of the album, this will be the first time I pass on a Paisley album.

  7. Jonathan April 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I’m with all those who aren’t looking forward to new music from Paisley. I wasn’t that impressed with his last effort, American Saturday Night, either. When TIME magazine named it the best album of 2009, that was a gross miscalculation. It’s a shame but his music is taking a nosedive in quality for an artist of his caliber.

    My problem with “Old Alabama” isn’t the intent but the execution. I have no problem with someone wanting to pay tribute to Alabama, they’re one of the greatest bands in country music history and a personal favorite of mine. But when that tribute turns out like a second rate attempt at something great, therein lies the issue. There isn’t anything special about the song nor was it constructed in a way that honors Alabama, but rather uses them as a metaphor for the relationship between the two characters in the story.

    When Brad gets to the chorus and starts rattling off classic Alabama songs like “Feels so Right,” “Love In The First Degree,” and “Dixieland Delight,” it comes off more corny than anything else.

    Now I agree with Razor when he says that this song “just is what it is.” It’s an attempt at something truly outstanding and nothing more.

  8. PSU Mike April 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Sorry, Razor…I have to join the choir on this one. As someone who grew up listening to Alabama as a kid, this song just comes off as a real disappointment for me. Put aside the unoriginality, and the corniness of the lyrics (the line “a little “Why Lady Why and “Feels So Right”, and it’s “Love in the First Degree” actually made me laugh the first time I heard it). My biggest issue with the song is that it didn’t really do anything new with Alabama. When I look at more successful collaborations, such as ZBB/Alan Jackson with “As She’s Walking Away”, or Dwight Yoakam/Buck Owens with “Streets of Bakersfield”, I can see the young artists crafted good songs that cast the legends in a really good light. You could tell through the songs that the elder artists are being respected, and that they strongly influenced the sound of the younger artists. Here, it almost feels like Paisley wrote this song for the sole reason of doing a song with Alabama, and that sentiment seems to overwhelm the quality of the song. Adding the members of Alabama to it by having them sing from “Mountain Music” just seems to make it worse for me, because I feel like they have more to offer than singing verses from one of their older songs. I think if Paisley would’ve written something a little more original, with a sound that alludes to classic Alabama, and included the members of the group in the song, he would’ve been much more successful. Unfortunately, he chose not to go that route, and as a result, I just don’t feel that the song does either artist justice.

    It’s a shame, because I know Paisley has done successful collaborations with older artists before (“Too Country”, for example), and I would love to see someone do a really good collaboration with Alabama. As the original review and many of the comments have mentioned, the sentiment is in the right place. The execution just misses the mark.

    • Razor X April 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      The Yoakam/Owens version “Streets of Bakersfield” was a cover of Owens’ 1973 recording. Buck didn’t sing anything “new” on the duet version, so how is it different, really, from having Alabama sing some lines from “Mountain Music” on the Paisley single?

      • PSU Mike April 3, 2011 at 6:11 pm

        Well, what can I say…you got me (lol). I suppose I ought to brush up my country music history before I go spouting off in a thread. The Buck Owens catalogue should be an introductory text in a “Country Music 101” class, and I ought to know better.

        In response to your question, I guess you’re right. I probably wouldn’t have cared so much if it were just a straight cover of one of Alabama’s old songs. Heck, I don’t even mind sampling in songs, if it’s used effectively and tastefully. I just think the way Paisley handled the song was very lazy and lackluster, and the name checking and corny lyrics were too much for me. While I’m sure Paisley’s heart was in the right place when writing this, I just don’t think the song is that good, and that’s the biggest fault with this collaboration.

        With that being said, if the publicity for this song helps put Alabama in the limelight for a little bit, and introduces younger artists to their older stuff…I suppose it isn’t a bad thing.

  9. Casey April 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    You can either honor someone as Paisley’s did, or you can do it in the vein of “Sweet Emmylou” as Catherine Britt did (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxbSb5KvkEs). Personally, I prefer the latter.

  10. Pingback: Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘This Is Country Music’ « My Kind Of Country

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