2014 CD Review




“We got an inner tube/ we got a trailer hitch/ we're near the river and far from rich/ but we have got each other and gas in the tank/ we're laughing all the way to the river bank.” - River Bank - Brad Paisley-Kelly Loveless

Brad Paisley has long milked mirth from the country genre with characters as diverse as Andy Griffith, LL Cool J, Keith Urban and now Twiggy.

Twiggy - a surfing and water skiing squirrel - kick started the video for River Bank, first single from his 10 th album.

The squirrel hasn't been parodied on Saturday Night Live like Accidentally Racist from previous album Wheelhouse but helped propel the album to chart tops on debut.

Moonshine In The Trunk is Brad's eighth album in succession to reach #1 with first-week sales.

The guitarist also cut a River Bank remix with rapper Colt Ford but it was Paisley's idea.

“I wrote with Colt a little bit for this album and when we were getting to know each other, I said, River Bank feels like something you should have done,'” Paisley confessed.

“You should do a version of this,' and he said, ‘Man, I'd love to' and so I sent him the track and that's what he came up with. It really does work. Don't you think it sounds like he was on there all along?”

Paisley's role as a judge on new reality TV singing competition Rising Star raised his profile - especially when he leaked Moonshine tracks in late July, getting almost all the new music out with help from famous friends before the August 25 release date.

They included astronauts, a chicken food chain, Ellen DeGenres, President Barack Obama and some moonshiners.

"I made this record with my fans in my mind, so I am going to present this my way," Paisley, 41, and father of two sons revealed.

"LL and I could've presented Accidental Racist in a different way, and the story might have been different. When I made Wheelhouse , I was trying to be very artistic. I said, 'This is the record I made, and I'll just present this and walk away, and whatever you think is whatever you think,' naively thinking that people would say, 'Really cool! I'm glad you're saying this.' But we ended up with NPR pieces and three-person panels on CNN, debating what we were doing. This time, I wasn't gonna let that happen. I didn't tell anyone this, but I started leaking the songs one at a time. 'Jeff Gordon, would you like to deliver Moonshine for me?' 'Chick-Fil-A , you there?' 'Hey, NASA ! You wanna do this one?' By the time the record's out, reviewers can say what they want, but my fans will have heard it and at least I had fun presenting it like a bootlegger would."

Astronaut Reid Wiseman helped premiere one of the album's three ballads American Flag on the Moon via a Tweet sent from the International Space Station.

It was a clever marketing ploy to bootleg his own album and live up to its title.


“If she was a drink/ she'd be a single-barrelled Bourbon on ice/ smooth with a kick/ a chill and a burn all at the same time/ she's Sunday drive meets/ high speed chase/ she ain't just a song/ she's the whole mix-tape/ she's so complicated/ that's the way God made her/ sunshine mixed with a little hurricane.” - The Perfect Storm - Brad Paisley-Lee Thomas Miller.

Paisley is a master of contradictions - he installed a bar in his home studio for co-producer Luke Wooten and the musicians on the aptly titled disc Moonshine In The Trunk .

But the singer, who reportedly doesn't drink, set the hedonistic mood with entrée Crushin' It - a pop of a top and crunches of a can and a product placement reference to “cold Bud Lite”.

The joyous living for the weekend anthem includes references to Texan hero George Strait getting Unwound and segues into equally escapist River Bank.

Paisley grew up close to the Ohio River, and says childhood memories of playing in the water still affect his music.

“I've called myself, for years, a river rat,” Paisley recalled.

“My best memories with my grandfather are on that body of water, and my dad and learning to ski. It's kind of like a back-to-basics song, which is really an inner tube and a boat and you've got a theme park.”

He says River Bank inspired the rest of the songs on the album - especially the blistering guitar fuelled title track.

“I was trying to figure out where to go from here, what to write and what felt like what I wanted to do,” he adds.

“There's a groove that feels like that and I think we grabbed that groove when we made this track and, more than that, there's a mindset that I am completely ready for after this winter.”

Paisley changed tempo and theme with his weather metaphor for romance in second single The Perfect Storm .

Perfect Storm is ignited by a complicated woman who "ain't just a song, she's the whole mix-tape."

Paisley is considered mainstream by some critics but takes enough chance to rise above generic peers clogging the charts and air waves.

He wrote two new songs solo - because of family connections.

The rise of women in the arts is reflected in Shattered Glass - a song inspired by actress wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley and her experiences with her entertainment career.

He wrote American Flag on The Moon - a song about human potential after one of his sons looked at the moon and said he thought he could see the flag once planted there by astronauts.

The chorus begins, "Tonight I dare you to dream, go on and believe in impossible things."

It's preceded by JFK 1962 that replays Kennedy's speech challenging the United States to reach the moon.

Maybe Cover Girl , with its whimsical references to the price of fame, is a direct descendant of his historic Celebrity.

A rollicking Gone Green is a self-deprecatory environmentally friendly pastiche with a redneck going green with sacrifices to save the planet with humorous references to solar panels and hybrid cars.

It's maybe a sibling song of Bob McDill penned Alan Jackson hit Gone Country.

Equally humorous is dirt road ditty 4WP - slamming a four wheel drive into four wheel park - delivered flippantly as a Bro-Country pastiche.


“I knew a man, that once was a sinner/ I knew a man, that once was a drunk/ I knew a man, that once was a loser/ he went out in the woods and made an altar out of a stump/ and me and Jesus got our own thing going/ me and Jesus got it all worked out/ Me and Jesus got our own thing going / And we don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about.” - Me And Jesus - Tom T Hall.

Paisley sang historic Tom T Hall song Me And Jesus at George Jones funeral but added it as a bonus track here, dedicated to American doctor Kent Brantly who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia.

So where did Paisley mix the song?

Where else but his little mate President Barack Obama's not so private jet Air Force One while flying over the Black Sea on another Afghanistan mission in May.

Paisley entertained the troops and Obama talked turkey with world leaders including President Hamad Karzai.

Brad, a teetotaler, produced his Air Force One shot glass, replete with logo, during an interview.

It was just another day in the flying office for the President and Paisley.

“Everyone else was working, it's like an office,” Paisley explained.

“Someone's scheduling Obama's phone call with Karzai, and the press secretary is talking about how many minutes the press can have once the plane lands. Susan Rice is over here, and she's talking to John Podesta. And I'm like, "I guess I'll mix a song. It's the most important thing I can do." They're running the world, and I'm like, "Hmmm. More treble?"

Paisley says he was moved by Christian doctor Brantley who was infected with Ebola and selflessly gave the serum to his friend rather than taking it himself.

Paisley used Twitter to reach out to Dr. Brantly and ask his 2.8 million followers to pray for the doctor's recovery.

Paisley referred to Brantly as a brave soul and tweeted a preview of his song Me and Jesus, dedicating it to the doctor who worked for Samaritan's Purse .

“I'm moved by the Christian Doctor fighting Ebola who gave the serum to his friend. So here's a bonus track. For him,” Paisley wrote.

Dr Brantly contracted Ebola in Liberia where he was doing charity work with sick patients and was transported to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital and treated in an isolated unit.

Dr Brantly initially refused the experimental serum because it was the only one and another American was battling the virus.

“Nancy Writebol should get it first, since she was sicker. I was not trying to be a hero; I was making a rational decision as a doctor,” said Dr Brantly who recovered after a dose of the serum.


“I heard a song a couple months ago, was Carrie Underwood on the radio/ reminded me of a poem my brother wrote back in second grade/ I know she didn't steal it but so what? We lawyered up and we sued her butt/ these days we figured we'd pretty much get paid to go away.” - High Life - Brad Paisley-Chris Dubois-Brent Anderson-Kelly Lovelace.

Paisley harvests hay from the propensity of American ambulance chasing lawyers and publishing pariahs to sue at the waft of a dollar.

So it's no surprise Carrie Underwood scores a cameo in High Life where his popular CMA Awards co-hosts jokes about lawsuits they won over their previous duet Remind Me .

Cartoonists and singers have a not so hidden weapon in their artillery - frock up satire as humour and give it both barrels.

It works for Shotgun Willie Nelson and fellow Texans Hayes Carll, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, singing crime novelist Kinky Friedman who returns to the Caravan Club in Oakleigh in January, and Kacey Jones.

But Paisley doesn't stop there - he resorts to product placement when he extends his frivolous law suit parody to name check his favourite feathered feast.

Chick-fil-A boss Dan T. Cathy leaked High Life that tips its cowboy hat to the chicken chain's Polynesian sauce.

“Money was gone by mid-July and we went back to just getting by/ 'til momma slipped on a patch of ice outside of Chick-Fil-A/ now we knew they was a Christian bunch/ so we didn't ask for all that much/ settled out of court for ten thousand bucks/ and free chicken 'til the day I die.”

Paisley has a penchant for recording in his home studio.

“We did Wheelhouse here, and we did all the guitar parts and vocals on This Is Country Music and some of American Saturday Night here,” Paisley explained.

“But this became a tracking studio with the last album. The drums are in a room across from the kitchen, and the bass amps are in the basement, down where the kegs are. The guitars are upstairs.

“I was thinking, ‘This is probably a mistake. And, it ended up being fantastic. We just camped out and cut music and it's really fun. It's all sort of been in the name of what I was writing and to capture the vibe of this perspective of mine. The first single is a little taste, but there's a lot of other stuff.”

The artist also reached back to Bakersfield influences to broaden his musical base.

Wheelhouse was such a departure for me, and I felt like I didn't want to repeat myself,” Paisley added.

“I didn't want to do anything that was the least bit predictable. I pushed that envelope about as far as I could push it, and I broke the edges out of it - in a good way and a bad way. This time I said, "Let's make a record that's everything l love about country music, in a modern sense with some new technology. We'll throw dub-step banjo on one song. We'll sample myself on one song." The record is a largely positive take on life right now. It's got this sentiment of, "Well, things aren't perfect but it's Friday."

That bucolic blue collar bliss, replete with product placement for Ford and Chevrolet, is reprised in Country Nation that precedes Me And Jesus - bonus encore track.

It's no surprise that Country Nation reflects and milks the power of country radio in the US and its fixation on the joys of weekend - a perfect bookend for the joyous Crushin' It.

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