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Album review: Brad Paisley's 'This Is Country Music'

May 23, 2011 |  5:12 pm

Paisley Brad Paisley is one of the savviest guys in country music, often finding crafty ways of pushing the tightly controlled envelope of what reaches the mainstream audience. His skills as a songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire and distinctively expressive singer are obvious at many turns on his latest album. But on this outing Paisley doesn’t move the musical conversation forward the way he’s done in several previous albums.

Last time out, with “American Saturday Night,” he broached social issues that don’t get much time in the spotlight in the happy-go-luck world of contemporary country. There are hints here — in the wit of “Camouflage,” which may well be an understated nod to the idea of the American melting pot; the title track also briefly nudges pop music’s content boundaries, noting in its opening line “You’re not supposed to say the word ‘cancer’ in a song.”

But in carrying out the idea of touching all the bases of country, he treads into overworked territory such as the stereotypical country girl’s homespun notion of romance (“Old Alabama,” with a guest appearance by guess which ’80s country group?), and Jimmy Buffett/Kenny Chesney south-of-the-border escapism (“Don’t Drink the Water”).

“This Is Country Music” still has a lot of what keeps Paisley at the head of the contemporary country class, but with several of the 15 songs merely competent, it could have been 30% stronger with a 30% edit.

Brad Paisley
“This Is Country Music”
Arista Nashville
Two and a half stars (Out of four)


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— Randy Lewis