Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Brad Paisley

  • Who Needs Pictures [Arista, 1999] **
  • Mud on the Tires [Arista, 2003] **
  • Time Well Wasted [Arista Nashville, 2005]  
  • 5th Gear [Arista Nashville, 2007] **
  • Play [Arista Nashville, 2008] Choice Cuts
  • American Saturday Night [Arista Nashville, 2009] A
  • This Is Country Music [Arista Nashville, 2011] A-
  • Wheelhouse [Arista Nashville, 2013] B+
  • Moonshine in the Trunk [Arista Nashville, 2014] *
  • Love and War [Arista, 2017] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Who Needs Pictures [Arista, 1999]
There's words in that there cowboy hat ("He Didn't Have To Be," "Me Neither"). **

Mud on the Tires [Arista, 2003]
so much command of Nashville conventions he'd fool with them as soon as feel with them ("Little Moments," "Famous People") **

Time Well Wasted [Arista Nashville, 2005]
See: Men Like Them.  

5th Gear [Arista Nashville, 2007]
Getting set in his ways--"Online," ugh--but still smarter than the Nashville norm ("Ticks," "Letter to Me"). **

Play [Arista Nashville, 2008]
"Waitin' on a Woman" Choice Cuts

American Saturday Night [Arista Nashville, 2009]
Here's an album where the marriage ballads are so meaty and convincing that the two exceptionally well-turned breakup songs seem like formal exercises, where a comedy number about fishing and beer would sound just dandy if there weren't so many subtler laughs on the agenda--like when the title number ends up in Manhattan, or when "Welcome to the Future" ends up on a synth outro, or when Paisley's rowdy guy friends join in on a hearty "You wear the pants/Buddy good for you/We're so impressed/Whoop-de-do." In short, here's an album from the capital of hits-and-filler where the filler could be somebody else's hits. As woman-friendly as Garth Brooks without the emo overkill, Paisley seems happier than ever, and I don't think it's just about his wife and kids. I think it's about Barack Obama. Listen carefully to "Welcome to the Future" and try to tell me I'm wrong. Then watch the video and hope Paisley isn't wrong either. A

This Is Country Music [Arista Nashville, 2011]
Having touted multiculturalism and Saturday Night Live to open his 2009 album, Paisley cuts his sails, making nice to Nashville on a lead/title/theme track that touts salvation and Lee Greenwood (among other things), and then for an encore singing the praises of Alabama the group and Tennessee the state. But Paisley has always been Nashville--I'm more put off by the ones about drowning your sorrows in Mexico, a locale Nashville should leave to the Cancun crowd, and that hottie who's working on a tan, only unfortunately I can't stop humming it. Horny for his wife but not horny enough, loving her like she's leaving because he thinks that might help, his songcraft is undiminished, and he remains the smartest and nicest guy in his world. After those two openers comes one that defines hell as "payments you can't make on a house that you can't sell" (among other things). Patterson Hood has never said it better. A-

Wheelhouse [Arista Nashville, 2013]
Two or three great songs and a fair number of pretty good ones--I'm especially partial to "Karate," a bash-his-face wife-abuse song that deserves more attention than it's been getting, and "Those Crazy Christians," where Paisley fulfills his God quotient by stating his distance so admiringly it'll do evangelicalism more good than an entire sacred album. But a lot of the time he's trying too hard to say too little or trying too clumsily to say too much, sometimes even with his trusty guitar. And the LL Cool J rap is just a flat-out embarrassment. B+

Moonshine in the Trunk [Arista Nashville, 2014]
Not-so-stealth Democrat respectfully requests that Nashville let him back in the frat ("Shattered Glass," "High Life") *

Love and War [Arista, 2017]
If you believe the only country superstar ever to record a pro-Obama song owes us an anti-Trump song, you're not getting it--not exactly. What you are getting is the antiwar title track, a John Fogerty collab that unites Iraq and Vietnam--and also, by extension, Syria and whatever else they got. And toward the back where the Christian gesture is usually tucked away you're also getting an anti-hate song that decries the evil done in God's name in both "the darkest prison" and "the largest church," because after all, "God is love." That'll do, doncha think? This is easily Paisley's strongest album since American Saturday Night--not a bum track, loaded with good jokes (including, after several failed attempts, one about the internet), hymns to marriage haters will hate because they don't have what conjugal love takes, and, word of honor, a fun Mick Jagger cameo. It begins with something called "Heaven South," which one kind of hater will dismiss as escapist piffle but I say is Paisley's way of telling another kind of hater to quit feeling sorry for themselves and be grateful for what they got. It ends by reprising the same song. A

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