Sunday, June 24, 2007


Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley is a man of many gears. And the country star from Glen Dale, W.Va., uses all of them on his delightful new recording.

Paisley is best known as a clever if cornpone jokester -- a modern-day Roger Miller -- and he's at his finest and funniest on "Ticks," the terrific lead single. In lusting after a girl (over some wicked guitar lines) and noting that he'd like to canoodle with her out "in the sticks," Paisley is simply setting up the frisky punch line, in which he declares: "I'd like to check you for ticks."

There are other amusing moments on Paisley's fifth studio set, too. "Online," for instance, shows the triple-threat singer, songwriter and guitar-slinger having fun at the expense of nerds who create much cooler identities on the Internet. And in "I'm Still a Guy," he announces: "I don't highlight my hair / I've still got a pair." Hoo ha!

But he can do serious songs just as well, and on "5th Gear" they include the sentimental weeper "With You, Without You," the introspective flashback "Letter to Me" and a saccharine-sweet ode to Paisley's wife and kids, "It Did."

Stylistically, Paisley is all over the map, recording everything from twangy ballads and a hymn to fiery country-rock songs to a honky-tonk shuffle: the spry, somewhat twisted "Bigger Fish to Fry," featuring Vince Gill, Little Jimmy Dickens and Whisperin' Bill Anderson. (As inspired as that collaboration might be, the one that's sure to generate the most heat is "Oh Love," a gorgeous, shimmering duet with country prom queen Carrie Underwood, who has never sounded better.)

Of course, given Paisley's virtuosity with the guitar, there are more than a few showcases for his high-octane fretwork, including a five-minute instrumental, "Throttleneck." The highlight, though, is "Mr. Policeman," with Paisley's scorching licks racing across the speakers. At least until Paisley, ever the comedian, downshifts and ends the song by quoting the old Jimmie Rodgers tune, "In the Jailhouse Now."

-- J. Freedom du Lac

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Ticks," "Mr. Policeman," "Oh Love"



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