Calling an album “This Is Country Music” is rather clever in its simplicity, decisively answering a hotly debated topic before anyone else has a definitive say. What is country music? Well, Brad Paisley will tell you: There’s a lot of banjo and steel guitar, a few songs about love, and obviously, Clint Eastwood is involved.
And if someone’s going to define the genre, why not Paisley, he of the soothing voice and utterly adorable love songs? His success over the years, thanks to twangy guitar skills and irresistible hooks, qualifies him for the task as much as anyone.
“This is real, this is your life, in a song,” Paisley tells us on “This Is Country Music,” the title track of his ninth studio album and first single, which rocketed up the Billboard country charts this year. And when he implies country music is simply people’s lives in song form, Paisley’s not kidding. In the 15-song album, he attempts to cover anything that could possibly happen to anyone . . . ever.
Topics include the ultra-serious — a child with cancer in “One of Those Lives” and hell-on-Earth scenarios in “A Man Don’t Have to Die.” But skip a few tracks, and there’s “Working on a Tan,” about college girls lying out on the beach and the frat guys who ogle them, and “Old Alabama,” the infectious ode to country living featuring Alabama band members themselves.
Of course, no one does it’s-the-little-things-in-life love songs better than Paisley. Carrie Underwood lights up the ballad “Remind Me,” in which a couple reminisces about the good old days when they had torrid make-out sessions in public.
While it’s an enjoyable listen, there are no real surprises — at this point, Paisley knows what works. And by the time the western actor shows up to guest-whistle his way through an instrumental track appropriately called “Eastwood,” it’s clear that Paisley has tackled so many topics and sounds that he thinks country music is . . . well, pretty much whatever you want it to be.
“Old Alabama,” “Remind Me”