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.
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
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.