My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘Love And War’

I basically like Brad Paisley. He writes good song lyrics, has a very individualistic sense of humor and is one heck of an instrumentalist. Even though he competes in the area of today’s mindless country music, he always makes sure to include a few tracks with lyrics to appeal to stone cold traditionalists like myself. He is fearless in his choice of material and never plays it safe, which means that each of his albums contains something unexpected, and occasionally he’ll try something that just doesn’t work, such as 2013’s “Accidental Racist”.

That said, there is one criticism I always have of his album, and that criticism is that the instrumental backing track is always too loud. It’s an easy fix – just keep the vocals at their current level and lower the instrumental accompaniment by about 40% or better yet, delete the electric lead guitar and replace it with acoustic guitar and/or mandolin. Fat chance of that ever happening, I know, but I’d thought I’d get it off my chest

Brad has at least co-writing credit on all of songs on this album; actually they are all co-writes (but see below).

The album opens with “Heaven South” a typical hometown ballad that has plenty of steel guitar and with a little tweaking, could have been played on country radio in the 1970s. Brent Anderson and Chris DuBois share the writing credits on this one.

Next up is “Last Time For Everything”, a passages of life song, describing the things that occur as one passes through life.

“One Beer Can” is a mid-tempo story about a party that almost, but not quite, got covered up.

Bobby threw a party
His parents left town
He told a few people who told a few people, word got around
It was a legendary evenin’
The whole place got trashed
It took all day Sunday, four his buddies and twelve Glad bags
They got it all cleaned up, hauled it off in the truck
Made ‘fore his parents got back
When they got home he gave them a hug
And almost a heart attack

‘Cause there was one beer can
Lying there on the floor
Right behind the sofa
You could see it from the door
His daddy threw a fit
And Bobby, he discovered it
There ain’t nothing in this world to ruin your summer
Like one beer can
One beer can

“Go To Bed Early” is a slow ballad that concerns a party that our protagonist chooses to skip a party or a concert he won’t attend in favor of a (perhaps) quiet evening with his girl. I would hope this is released as a single as it is a very strong song.

There’s a party going on tonight
And we can go if you want to
There’s a good band playing downtown
But looking at you right now
Tell you what I’d rather to do

Is go to bed early
Turn out the lights
It’s only eight thirty
But that’s alright
Know you ain’t tired
Neither am I
Let’s go to bed early
And stay up all night

Dinosaur rocker Mick Jagger gets co-writing credit with Brad on the duet “Drive of Shame”. The song’s instrumentation sounds like something that Jagger’s usual band might have recorded. Jagger plays electric guitar and tambourine on this track.

“Contact High” has an R&B groove to it but no, it’s not about drugs or alcohol.

“Love and War” features co-writer John Fogerty and is a melancholy rocker that reiterates the relative neglect of veterans, particularly those of the Vietnam era. It is less true now than it was during the 1960s and 1970s but still makes a point worth remembering.

He was nineteen
And landed at Bagram
Scared and all alone
He lost a leg and a girlfriend
Before he got home
And they say all is fair in Love and War
But that ain’t true, it’s wrong
They send you off to die for us
Forget about you when you’re done

“Today” is a love song about remembering his girl as she is today. This has a really traditional feel to it. I very much like the song and think it made a good single.

“Selfie #theinternetisforever” is very topical – whether it will be remembered ten years from now is questionable, but it is good for a smile in 2017. The tone is both funny and scolding at the same time.

I have no idea who is Timbaland, and after listening to his vocal contributions to “Grey Goose Chase”, I’m not sure I care. This is a prototypical song about drinking a woman off your mind – what used to be described as “the endless ballads of booze and broads” except this isn’t a ballad.

Brad generously gives Johnny Cash co-writing credit on “Gold All Over The Ground” although some stage comments are the extent of JC’s involvement. This is a nice country ballad with some excellent steel guitar.

“Whispering Bill” Anderson co-wrote “Dying To See Her”, a nostalgic slow ballad and provides a narration. In this song an older man looks forward to reuniting with his departed love.

Imagine her
Standing there
Young again
Long brown hair
As he crosses over
To the other side
She smiles at him
He runs at her
With arms open wide
She was his reason for living
She was his rock and his best friend

Timbaland is back on “Solar Powered Girl”; this track features some banjo. The song is essentially about breaking loose and starting over.

Paisley traverses into the muck of modern politics on “The Devil is Alive and Well”, where he comments that some of the worst things are done in the name of God, which occasionally has been true.

Surf the web
Turn on the news
Same old story
Everyday
Hateful words
That we all use
So much anger
So much pain
I don’t know
If you believe in Heaven
I don’t know
If you believe in Hell
But I bet we can agree that the Devil
Is alive and well
Alive and well

“Meaning Again” is a mid-tempo ballad about moments of defeat redeemed by love on a daily basis.

Sittin’ on the interstate
The end of another day
Feeling tired, feeling beat up, feeling small
Sick of running this rat race
And Coming last place

Feeling like I don’t matter at all
Then I walk through the door
She says “I missed you, where ya been?”
And just like that
My life has meaning again

The album closes out with a reprise of “Heaven South”

Lyrically, there is not a song on this album that I dislike. There are songs on which I would change the production and/or instrumentation. I give this a B+ and can imagine that many others will like it more than I do.

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6 responses to “Album Review: Brad Paisley – ‘Love And War’

  1. Luckyoldsun June 14, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Unfortunately for Brad (and Cool J), “Accidental Racist” came out right when the Confederate Flag changed almost overnight from a symbol of Southern pride to something practically on a par with the swastika. In the ’90s a southern band whose image and even name were based around the symbol–“Confederate Railroad”–could get its generally inclusive “nice guy–redneck” singles played on country radio in all regions of the country without raising even a hint of controversy.

    • Ken June 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

      I think that for many Americans – especially Black Americans – the Confederate Flag was never a symbol of southern pride. It was a symbol and a reminder of the darkest days of our democracy. In the 21st century the unforgiving spotlight of social media placed the issue on the front burner and brought the issue to the foreground. Regardless of what some may believe it cannot be denied that one of the core principles of the Confederacy was the continuation of slavery. Hard to defend a symbol of that.

      • Paul W Dennis June 15, 2017 at 11:48 pm

        Keep in mind that history is written by the victors and so is subject to a certain amount of self-justification and posturing. The average Confederate soldier owned no slaves and had no expectations of owning any, so it is doubtful that slavery was the average soldier’s motivation for fighting

        As Lincoln himself said, “My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it.”

        We should keep around the reminders of the “darkest days” lest we forget them, or worse yet , become a cultural ISIS attempting to eradicate the past so we can live in ignorance.

        • Ken June 16, 2017 at 9:20 am

          As the Civil War dragged on Lincoln looked for any solution to end the carnage. However his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation provides his ultimate view of slavery. The Lincoln quote that you posted is taken from an 1862 letter to Horace Greeley in response to an editorial. At the time that Lincoln wrote that letter he had already drafted the Emancipation Proclamation and according to Greeley’s later analysis Lincoln was preparing the nation for it’s issuance with his comments in that letter. Lincoln’s final sentence of that letter sums up his view of slavery:
          “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

          Read the full text here: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm

          Although the average southerner may not have owned slaves support for that institution was pervasive throughout southern culture. Those sentiments were clearly evidenced after the war by the proliferation of Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, intense opposition to school integration and racial bias that lead to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act..

          I agree that symbols of “darkest days” should never be forgotten. However symbols such as the Confederate flag that personifies slavery should not be celebrated, It belongs in a museum not flying above state capitols nor waved at concerts by those that don’t comprehend everything that it truly stood for. Many historians have debunked the narrative that the war was only about states rights. Clearly slavery was a key tenet of the the Confederacy. Ken Burns excellent series The Civil War underscored that fact. He revisited that topic in a 2015 interview.

  2. Luckyoldsun June 15, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Paul,
    Actually, Paisley is not “generously” giving Johnny Cash credit for “Gold All Over The Ground”–turns out that Cash actually wrote the lyrics! (Presumably, Brad put it to music.) It was published in a book of Cash “poems”–or perhaps unfinished songs?–called “Forever Words.” Paisley even did a video for the song at the Cash cabin in Tennessee.
    I have no idea what sort of hit potential this song has, but wouldn’t that be a kick if it went to the top. I believe there was only one Cash-penned song that became a #1 hit for another artist. That would be the “Tennessee Flattop Box” for Rosanne Cash.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/country/news/see-brad-paisleys-moving-video-tribute-to-johnny-cash-w478850

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