A title like This Is Country Music is bold. It’s expansive. It’s a title that stirs feelings solely through its own phrasing. Forget about merely just trying to back up a title like that – you absolutely must back up a title like that in order for the overall project to work. On his 10th album, This Is Country Music, current CMA Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley takes on the task of representing an entire genre through 15 songs. With his wry sense of humor, ability to work a melody and virtuoso guitar skill, Brad takes listeners on a journey through country music that they won’t soon forget.
“So turn it on, turn it up and sing along/ This is real, this is your life in song/ This is country music,” Paisley sings on the acoustic-based opening title track, just seconds after making the point that country music is about truths we all face – truths like faith, hardship and the love of family. Brad’s voice sounds pure and smooth as he hits the high notes throughout the chorus, and his perfectly twanged-out and melodic guitar adds color throughout.
Brad co-wrote 12 of the 15 songs on This Is Country Music, and invites some of the genre’s most heralded (and diverse) heroes and current stars to join him on six of the album’s songs. The iconic Alabama adds extra firepower to the Southern rock-flared first single “Old Alabama,” and Carrie Underwood lends her soaring vocal talents for an emotional duet on the power ballad “Remind Me,” about rekindling that special spark. One of the most exciting guest spots is saved for legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood on the song “Eastwood,” an epic Western instrumental as hard-charging as a raging stampede that features Eastwood whistling through the chorus like it’s high noon.
Paisley explores a number of styles on the album. There’s the country/surf of “Working On A Tan” featuring his unique sense of humor on lines like “She’s soaking up the sun, getting next to nothing done/ There’s a term paper due in a week or two/ But she don’t give a damn/ She’s working on a tan.” The bluegrass-influenced “Be The Lake” and the Mexican mariachi styling of “Don’t Drink The Water” (featuring Blake Shelton) continue the trend of Paisley’s oftentimes light-hearted songs.
One of the album’s sweetest and most tender moments is “New Favorite Memory,” a ¾-based ballad offering snapshots of the little things Paisley loves about his wife while they make new memories together. Descriptions like “Driving through town running red lights/ You take my hand in the car” capture the moment vividly.
Produced by Frank Rogers, This Is Country Music is a wide project in scope. The number of different styles, ranging from traditional to pop, from Nashville Sound to Western and even Southern Gospel, is a truly epic undertaking. Yet, due to Paisley’s quintessential characteristics, like his knack for writing sweet and funny lyrics or his captivating ultra-twang guitar playing, the collection is brought together beautifully to offer a strong and insightful look at an American art form.