Posts Tagged With: Brad Paisley

Country 2 Country 2014 Review – Day 2: Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry & Chris Young

When I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning it was after just 2.5 hours sleep, but as someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee I didn’t need to wait for a caffeine boost, so adrenaline kicked in and the second day of my Country 2 Country weekend commenced. You can read all about my pop up stage experiences here and review of day 1 on the main stage here. Now it’s time to get into the main stage acts that performed on Sunday, as the last few hours of Country 2 Country 2014 played out.

Taking the stage first was Chris Young in a set that seemed to last far fewer than the 45 minutes it was allocated. He was good though, very good, and I’d love to see him come back for a full tour. While he sung and played with passion and an almost ever present grin, the sound set up once again let us down as his vocals were drowned out by the guitars some of the time, something that I complained about during Martina McBride’s set the night before.

Chris Young at  Country 2 Country 2014

Chris Young at Country 2 Country 2014

I am most familiar with his recent A.M. album so was pleased to hear Aw Naw, which is a great song to hear live, and sure to become his anthem. Who I Am With You saw him slow the tempo down and show us that he’s not all rock, though the high energy numbers did dominate. It was a very different way to start off the evening than the previous day, but a lot better as it got everyone pumping and wanting more.

Up next were The Band Perry, who along with the night’s headline act were one of the bands I first started listening to when I decided country music was where my heart lay. Their pop infused country tunes make them very accessible and they have had more success than many in transcending country music in the past few years. Kimberley is the consummate show woman and moves around the stage with confidence and poise. I didn’t have any problem hearing every single word of every song as she belted out hit after hit, with a voice that I’ve heard few get close to. While she is without doubt the leader of the group, her brothers Reid and Neil are given the spotlight too, whether that be to play their instruments, or in the case of Fat Bottomed Girls taking the lead vocals, but please don’t ask me to say which brother it was.

The Band Perry at  Country 2 Country 2014

The Band Perry at Country 2 Country 2014

It wasn’t just music though, as we got more stories and chat than probably any other act of the weekend. As engaging as Kimberly is, it does come across as quite rehearsed, but we can forgive her that, with delivery as entertaining as she provides. I wanted to hear Pioneer, Done, Chainsaw and If I Die Young, and I got all of those, but would I get the song I liked the most? Absolutely, and not only that but Better Dig Two closed the set, in magnificent style. They used every inch of the stage and played to all sides of the arena. This was more of a show than any other act at Country 2 Country, but the music was of the highest quality too, and after Chris Young the energy and vibe just kept getting better.

What ever goes up has to come down, we all know that. It was the mood of the arena that seemed to plummet when Rascal Flatts played. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty people signing along and obviously enjoying their music, but a noticeable percentage weren’t, myself included. I think the best way I can describe how I felt is that I just didn’t get it. I wasn’t keen on Gary LeVox’s voice, and his on stage antics often made me cringe and seemed below an act of their standing. My friend Mark, whose photos are used in this article, said they didn’t resonate, and he nailed it with that. They are a huge band, with massive record sales and a large following, but we can’t all like everything, and they just weren’t for me. Looking on the positive side, it gave me some much needed rest, as I stayed seated for the whole set until they finished with the song from the Cars film.

Rascal Flatts at Country 2 Country 2014

Rascal Flatts at Country 2 Country 2014

Let’s get things back on track and talk about Brad Paisley, the main event of the night and the act I was most looking forward to seeing all weekend. Well rested I jumped to my feet as soon as he came on stage and grinned from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat as he started off with Southern Comfort Zone, one of my favourite tracks on his Wheelhouse album. Now I knew Brad was a great guitar player, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good he was and how much he featured guitar solos in his live shows. Blisteringly good may not cover it, as he played all over the stage and shredded the night away. As a massive guitar fan this made me very happy indeed, and seemed to have the same effect on the rest of the audience.

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

While I would have liked to hear more songs from Wheelhouse that would have requited a 3 hour set, and it’s understandable that he play a greatest hits style show for this crowd, and with a back catalogue of such high quality nobody can complain. Chris Young came out to sing Outstanding In Our Field with him, as presumably the original collaborator on the song Dierks Bentley had moved on from his Saturday night set in London. We also had Kimberley come out and sing Whiskey Lullaby in a beautiful rendition that gave us one of the more tender moments of the evening. Thankfully that was the end of the guests as I had feared after these two that Rascal Flatts may come out for a song – sorry Flatts fans, but that wouldn’t have been cool.

We had one purely instrumental number which was accompanied by some hilarious Star Wars / Star Trek animations on the big screen, and some world class guitar playing from Mr Paisley. At one point Brad disappeared, and appeared on the smaller stage that is located towards the back of the arena. There we got acoustic versions of Online and I’m Still A Guy, as a military operation unfolded in front of me. Security guards were placed a few feet away all along the alleyway towards the stage, the one that my seat and barrier in front faced. Were we about to get another hand slapping opportunity much like we did with Zac Brown the previous night? The answer was no, as though Brad did come past us, his minder’s blasting of my arm out of the way told us an unequivocal nobody touches Brad Paisley. That is understandable, given that he had his guitar still, round his neck.

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

Mud On the Tyres, Ticks, Water – the hits just kept coming, and with interjections of that famous Brad Paisley humour which had the whole crowd in stitches. Though I didn’t get to hear my favourite Anything Like Me, Mona Lisa Smile went down like a 10 year old classic, and not a song that had only recently been played on radio here in the UK. In fact the woh woh woah woh part went on way after Brad left the stage and continued until he came back and joined in. The he gave us Alcohol as an encore, and what better way could there be to end a Brad Paisley concert? He even played is guitar using a beer bottle on the fret board, before throwing the bottle across the stage to one of his crew. In fact kudos to this guy as he had to catch a guitar at the start of the evening that Brad launched into the air from the centre of the stage to the side, and the guy caught it, thankfully!

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

Brad Paisley at Country 2 Country 2014

I was absolutely blown away by Brad Paisley. Sure he was the one I was looking forward to the most going in and had high expectations, but his blend of country rock and Jedi guitar playing had me in awe. Earlier Chris Young put himself on the map as someone who I wanted to see again, The Band Perry showed why they are such a hit around the world and Rascal Flatts played too. But the night belonged to Brad Paisley, as the aforementioned woh woh woah wohs continued into the toilets, the men’s anyway, and on the tube back into London. Then it was finished, and Country 2 Country was over for another year, but what a way to go out.

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Categories: Country 2 Country, Gig Reviews | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Country 2 Country 2014: The Highlight of the Year, and it’s Not Just About The Main Acts

Country 2 Country 2014

Last year I attended Country 2 Country just on the Sunday, but this year I am lucky enough to be going on both the Saturday and Sunday. Dixie Chicks on the Saturday, along with Brad Paisley and The Band Perry on the Sunday are what I am most looking forward to, as these are artists I am very familiar with and especially in the case of the Sunday duo, particularly like. Wheelhouse was one of my favourite albums of last year, in fact I ranked it 3rd in my Top 9 Country Music Albums of 2013, and the thought of seeing Brad play songs like Southern Comfort Zone live is pretty damn exciting. Likewise, seeing The Band Perry perform Better Dig Two is one of the things I am most looking forward to. With Natalie Maines there’s always the prospect she might rant about a world leader, with David Cameron being a prime candidate to receive a few home truths!

Of the other main acts, I recently bought the latest albums from Zac Brown Band and Chris Young and like those, more so Zac Brown Band. That being said, I’ll be hoping they don’t play Overnight, a song that seemed ill fitting for the album both in style and content. Rascal Flatts I know from the Cars soundtrack, but little else! I have heard very little from Martina McBride, and have only heard one song from Dierks Bentley. With Dierks I can’t tell you what the song is, but it was played a few times on Chris Country recently and I remember thinking I really liked it. I don’t think I’ll be invited to join the Dierks Bentley street team any time soon, but I still have more than 5 weeks to get my act together!

That’s the 8 main acts, made up of artists I know and love, some I have dabbled in, and a few for which Country 2 Country will be an education. 8 bands in one weekend is a pretty good tally, especially when they are country music acts and this is the UK, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just this morning Country 2 Country announced the 27 acts that will be appearing on the pop up stages across the weekend. That means there will be a massive 35 country music acts performing at one point or another on March 15th and 16th – wow. I don’t know the vast majority of these, but I have heard of a few, and have even chatted to some on Twitter, like Hannah Jane Lewis, Raintown and Jessica Clemmons. In fact I have Jessica’s EP to review, so I’d better get on that!

These pop up stage artists are especially exciting, because for the most part they won’t have big music companies behind them, yet, to promote them and bring them to the consciousness of the average country music fans in the UK. I could, and intend to, come away from Country 2 Country having discovered a whole bunch of great new music that I didn’t even know was out there. It’s win win for both artists and fans. Such is the open nature of these pop up stages that I may also get the opportunity to chat to some of them, which is not something you can easily do in the more formal setting of a standard gig venue.

Add in the country market, which last year had some great food and merchandise stalls, as well as representatives from mighty organisations such as The CMA, and this weekend has the potential to be quite awesome. There’s one other thing though…that’s the country music community, many of whom I have the opportunity to chat to on Twitter, and that could be you, yes you who is reading this right now! I know of quite a few that will be in attendance and will get the chance to meet, chat and have a drink with. As someone who is still in the infancy of their country music journey, it’s these people, you, that have recommended artists and songs, and have been the biggest part of my country music learning curve. It will be great to finally meet and put faces to names, some of whom I’d even consider friends, as much as you can be over Twitter anyway!

The country music community, bar none, has been the most accepting and friendly of any I have encountered, and it’s one of the reasons I have plunged head first into a genre of music that was left undiscovered for so much of my life. I can’t wait to be back in The O2, with link minded fans, to see some of the best music in the world today. Country 2 Country is looking like the highlight of the year, and how lucky am I to even have such an event to attend? There are many people out there in the UK who have passionately followed country music for years, and not had anything like Country 2 Country – thankfully they do now.

See you there – I’ll be the one in the chequered shirt and cowboy boots!

Categories: Articles, Country 2 Country, Live Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Top 9 Country Music Albums of 2013

So why top 9 and not top 10? Well, still being relatively new to the country music scene I spent a lot of 2013 listening to albums that didn’t actually come out last year. So as much as I might have played Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert a lot, neither of their albums came out last year and are thus not valid. But Eric did have an album out last year I hear you cry! Yes, but I don’t have Caught In The Act, yet (that may change by the end of this article), it was Chief I was referring to.

There were then albums such as Annie Up by The Pistol Annies which I just didn’t find worthy a place in a top list. It was okay, but not a patch on their Hell On Heels album, and nowhere near the quality of the albums I have placed. So, now we have that sorted, let the countdown commence!

9) Pioneer – The Band Perry

The first time I heard the second album from this Perry family trio I wasn’t impressed, and that disappointed me. I loved their debut album and Better Dig Two was one of my absolute favourite songs of the year. I was all ready to throw my toys out of the pram, and CD out the window, when I had a change of heart and decided to give it another chance. Do you know what? It grew on me. Better Dig Two is by far the stand out track, but the title track Pioneer is a cracking song, with Don’t Let Me Be Lonely not far behind. Mother Like Mine still irritates me, in that Kimberley isn’t the only one in the band whose Mother that is. A great pop country album with tons of cross over appeal.

8) Woman On The Wheel – Gretchen Peters

I love live music albums, and after seeing Gretchen Peters live in June, getting her live CD/DVD combination was a given. Woman On The Wheel contains live versions of the songs on her latest album Hello Cruel World, with 3 bonus tracks. One of those extra tracks is Wild Horses, which was originally by The Rolling Stones, and not The Sundays as Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might think! If you’ve never heard Gretchen before then please check her out as there are few people in music that put as much passion into their music as she does. The album comes presented in a hardback book format with a stack of photos, and a DVD with it. For shame I’ve not yet watched the DVD, but as well as an hour long look back at the tour, it also includes music videos for several of the songs.

7) The Other Life – Shooter Jennings

If Vickye from For The Country Record needs a partner in her crusade against Bro-Country then she need look no further than the son of country legend Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings. There are a few tracks on this album that are used as a vehicle for Shooter to vent his frustrations, but none more obviously than Outlaw You, which declares “Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat, You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat, Country ain’t just about where you’re at, It’s about bein’ true to what’s inside”. Now I’m not against Bro-Country, and that’s something I’ll discuss at a later date, but Outlaw You is easily one of the best country songs of 2013. The album is a showcase for what a fantastic song writer and musician Shooter Jennings is, and proves that not every male country singer of a certain age is shying away from the more traditional roots and only thinking about beer and trucks…not that there is anything wrong with that, not in my eyes (and ears) anyway.

6) Like A Rose – Ashley Monroe

If it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t have even known that a) Ashley Monroe was a member of The Pistol Annies, and b) she had a solo career and an album out last year. Along with a certain Kacey Musgraves, I heard a lot of buzz about her album and so decided to check it out, and thank goodness I did. Here was a young lady who knew what kind of record she wanted to make and didn’t feel the need to compromise in any way. A traditional country album in essence, but with modern influences and a good dose of beguiling attitude. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of the sassy attitude shown by Ashley on her album, on Annie Up, where I was expecting it. Weed Instead of Roses was one of the songs of 2013, without a doubt. We just need her to tour in the UK, please.

5) Spitfire – LeAnn Rimes

I feel like this should be higher, and if this was based on live performances she most certainly would be, but for now a top 5 spot is pretty damn good. In 2013 I went from not knowing much about LeAnn to seeing her live at Country 2 Country, getting this album, and then seeing her live again in October. It was her performances of songs from her new album at C2C, especially Borrowed, that made me a fan, and I was particularly delighted when I won tickets in a ukCOUNTRYmusic.NET competition to see her for a second time. Spitfire is an eclectic mix of songs showing all sides of LeAnn’s personality, from the aforementioned tear inducing Borrowed to the foot tapping Gasoline And Matches. That last song featured none other Ron Thomas and Jeff Beck – how about that for a superstar lineup! Spitfire is one of those albums that I always chastise myself for not listening to again sooner whenever I do play it.

4) The Music of Nashville Season 1: Volumes 1 and 2

You can’t have compilation albums in this list! Says who? This is my list, on my website – I say what goes, and these get included, together as one entry no less! As a show Nashville is fun, but a little too soap opera for my liking, but the music is tremendous. Like many I became a huge fan of Scarlett played by Clare Bowen, and her duet with Sam Palladio’s Gunnar of If I Didn’t Know Better was the highlight of the album. We also got the absolutely enchanting Telescope from sisters Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella, which was also done by Hayden Panettiere. It was Volume 2 that I actually preferred, and a lot of that was to do with Panettiere and especially her rendition of Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again, which at one time I couldn’t stop playing. We don’t have a start date for season 2 yet here in the UK, but I for one can’t wait for some more CDs of great songs from an interesting mix of actor come singers.

3) Wheelhouse – Brad Paisley

Mr Paisley was one of my discoveries of 2013, and I actually became a fan of his before Wheelhouse came out. That meant I could actually look forward to the new album and even had it pre-ordered. You can read my full review of it here , but like the two albums that make up the number 1 and 2 spots, this is one that I listened to repeatedly and still listen to regularly now. Brad is the act at the upcoming Country 2 Country that I am most looking forward to seeing play live. Aside from Accidental Racist with LL Cool J, it’s an almost flawless album which combines humour, with a good does of emotion, memories, and the all important guitars.

2) Two Lanes of Freedom – Tim McGraw

When I started writing this article last weekend I didn’t even own a Tim McGraw album and couldn’t have named you one his songs if my life depended on it – thankfully it didn’t! Then I played Two Lanes of Freedom, again and again, to the point where I must have listened to it more than 10 times in the last 7 days. Every time I listen I get something new out of it and gain a new appreciation for the songs included in this masterpiece of an album. It really does have everything, and I’m still not sure whether I prefer the very touching and beautiful Annie I Owe You A Dance and Friend of a Friend, or the pulsating Truck Yeah, or maybe even the star studded Highway Don’t Care. You can read the full review I wrote of Two Lanes of Freedeom here, and just know that this album from Tim McGraw came within a whisker of getting the top spot in this countdown.

1) Same Trailer Different Park – Kacey Musgraves

The first time I listened to Kaceys Musgraves’ debut album I was blown away. Such an incredible mix of great song writing, beautiful vocals and all bundled up with that charming attitude that only she can pull off. There’s a dose of traditional, a handful of modern, but quintessentially, it’s Kacey Musgraves, a name and voice you will hear for many years to come. Filler is something quite alien to this album, as every song is pure gold, and Follow Your Arrow was my song of 2013, and like the album, is in my top ten of all time. The fact that in the same year I discovered her, I saw Kacey Musgraves play live twice (April and August), is just the icing on a very special cake. For a debut album it’s a very bold one, as she doesn’t shy away from singing about exactly what she wants, no matter how controversial that may seem. However, she’s been received as well as by the critics as by us fans, and is undoubtedly the breakout star of 2013. There’s only one thing that can come to close to Same Trailer Different Park, and that’s the prospect of a second album.

So there we have it, my top 9 country music albums of 2013, and having just received Drinks After Work by Toby Keith and Caught In the Act by Eric Church, I could well be adding a 10th album to this list very soon. I have only listened to the Brandy Clark and Holly Williams albums once, and have releases from Lindy Ortega, Darius Rucker and Keith Urban still to get, to name but a few. 2013 for me was a year in which I discovered more great music, new and old, than any other in over a decade, and 2014 promises to be every bit as good, and maybe even better.

12 months ago I said Getting into country is like opening the wardrobe to Narnia – an amazing world of music and people that I never knew existed, and wow, is that ever an under-statement. I love how varied the genre of country music is and how it includes so many great artists and styles. There really is something for everyone, and I’m trying to consume as much as I can – it’s a buffet of excellent music I can’t and don’t want to stop going back for more.

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Album Review: Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse

Brad Paisley - Wheelhouse

Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse

It was less than 3 months ago that I wrote about my discovering Brad Paisley and liking his music, a lot. It was Hits Alive that got me into him and since then I’ve listened to and really enjoyed This Is Country Music and American Saturday Night, particularly the latter. So what was that mini Brad Paisley retrospective for? To highlight the fact that his new album, Wheelhouse, is the first one that I have anticipated and bought on the day of release. Well, I actually pre-ordered it last week and received it today, the day after release.

I had this review in mind even before listening to Wheelhouse and wasn’t sure whether to generally about the album, with particular attention to certain songs, or to look at each song individually. After listening to the album, I’ve decided to go for the latter, so let’s get on with that right now. It’s worth noting that I bought the deluxe version which has a massive 21 songs on it, 4 of them limited to this version.

Bon Voyage and Southern Comfort Zone
My first listen to Wheelhouse was in the car on the way home this evening, so with my eyes on the road and not on the stereo I didn’t notice what tracks were playing. Why is that of importance I hear you ask? Because a minute or so into what I though was Bon Voyage I thought it sounded remarkably like Southern Comfort Zone and there was a reason for that. Bon Voyage is only a 19 second instrumental introduction to Southern Comfort Zone and the album. The first song, and first single from the album is what initially put Wheelhouse on my radar, and encourages exploring the world, but at the same time extolling the virtues of home. The video that accompanies this song is essential viewing, and as such I present it you right now.

Southern Comfort Zone builds to a pretty epic sounding chorus which I can only imagine would be great to see performed live.

Beat This Summer
A good song about a summer relationship aside, Beat The Summer brings something to me that I sorely miss in music today, and particular from my favourite band of 25 years Bon Jovi – that being a cracking guitar solo. Brad’s guitar playing prowess was one of the things that first attracted me to his music and just 8 minutes and 20 seconds into Wheelhouse I’m rewarded with a nifty solo which returns again, after the chorus, towards the end of the song.

Outstanding In Our Field
Brad is joined by Dirks Bentley & Roger Miller, with Hunter Hayes on guitar. Two of those I’m aware of, but the only Roger Milla, spelt slightly differently, I know is the Cameroon football player famous for dancing after scoring in the 1990 football world cup. This is a fun song which sounds very much like a live jam, and for that it gets extra marks. More 6-string skills on display in a song that would have made a great summer anthem for an 18 year old me.

Pressing On A Briuse
It gets a bit more serious now as Brad sings about an old flame and how his wanting to see what she’s up to and reflecting on the past is like pressing on a bruise. An analogy I quite like, though wiggling a loose tooth would be my go to alternative. Only problem being that most people over the age of ten don’t get those, so well done Brad, your’s is better. Good song up until the rapping bit which didn’t do much for me, and was thankfully not too long.

I Can’t Change The World
This is a really nice stripped back acoustic sounding, at the start at least, love song. I mentioned Bon Jovi before and I can imagine Jon singing this in the band’s new direction of the last few years. This is a song that Brad will play when the sun goes down at outdoors gigs, and will be played by more than a few men to their chosen gal. Another guitar solo? Go on then, you know how much I like them.

幽 女
This is an instrumental song whose title translates to Quiet Female. It sounds like a blend of the orient and an old western, with the emphasis on the latter. Nice little tune, not much more to be said really, apart from mentioning some pretty fine string skills on display.

Karate
This song had me thinking probably more than I should have. It’s basically about a woman who it seems gets knocked about by her husband and goes on to learn karate until she reaches black belt and can then fight back and kick his butt. Now the problem I have with this is that it takes years to get to that stage, so surely she’d be better leaving him than staying in an abusive relationship until this point of trained revenge? Musically it would appear that Quiet Female is a prelude to Karate and it’s a fun song, if not a little bewildering for the points I have already talked about.

Death Of A Married Man
Great little song, and emphasis on the little, that has Eric Idle singing. Yes, the Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. I’d love to know the story that lad to him working with Brad, but I’m thankful it happened.

Harvey Bodine
The fun continue continue with a song that sees Brad singing about a guy who was officially dead for 5 minutes, but then came back to life, only to hanker back to that dead period thanks to having to go back to his wife whom he appears to dislike immensely. There are times when the melodic vocal reminds me of Paul McCartney in his days as a Beatle, which can only ever be a good thing. It’s at this point in the album where I’m thinking Brad may have had a relationship that has ended badly as this is the 3rd song in 9, if we discount Bon Voyage, that has been about unhappy partnerships.

Tin Can On A String
It all slows down now for Tin Can On A String as we a sing about a couple getting married, and Brad as the guy who wanted to be with her. Another song about a missed chance of love – I’m definitely sensing a theme here. Brad hits some pretty high notes and treats me to another guitar solo, albeit shorter than the previous efforts. A decent enough song, but beaten out by I Can’t Change The World as the top ballad on Wheelhouse.

Death Of A Single Man
You got me Brad, I was fooled. This song starts off as if we are talking about a guy who has not long to live and then dies, until we get swerved and it’s actually his life as a single man that has ended. What seems like it is going to be quite a depressing tune actually turns into a jaunty song about this guy’s new life as a married man. That said, even though it’s lighthearted, it is another song knocking marriage. A very 70s sounding guitar solo takes into the last minute of Death Of A Single Man, which in itself sounds quite dated, intentionally so.

The Mona Lisa
I’m sure there’s a Coldplay song that starts a little like this, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. This is a turn up for the books, it’s a song about a guy loving a woman and being with her being enough in his life. I guess Brad isn’t as against relationships as some earlier songs may have implied.

Accidental Racist
What starts out being a good song about a guy wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd Confederate Flag and stupidly realising that to some it means something different than being proud of his heritage, is soon spoiled when LL Cool J raps his way into the song. I wasn’t keen on Brad’s own country rapping earlier in the album, I’m far less satisfied with the hood invading this country tune. I get that he wanted the other side of being judgmental to be represented, but the two styles don’t blend well together at all.

Runaway Train
I like the sound of this song a lot with it’s blend of stringed instruments and fast pace, but it’s definitely one of those songs that needs a few more listens before it resonates with me. It’s a song about a guy who is with a woman, or maybe he isn’t, who has some kind of hold on him. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, it just didn’t stand out for its story as much as the others, but then 21 songs is a lot to take and write about on first play.

Those Crazy Christians
For a short while I though Mr Paisley was going to attack the Christian religion, but as the song progresses you realise that he’s actually complimenting and praising them, sometimes in a backhanded way. I particularly like the “They curse the Devil’s whiskey, while they drink the savior’s wine” line, which elicited a bizarre partially flame engulfed bar image in my mind! I’m left wondering if Brad himself has been baptised in this song, or whether it was just a guy like him.

Officially Alive
For the first 3 seconds this could be a Killers song, but then it very clearly isn’t, as the banjos kicking in a while later confirm for sure. More comparisons as the guitars in the chorus sound like a U2 song, with a another song that builds to an epic pinnacle about feeling alive. As a father, any song that talks about becoming a parent is going to score sentimental points with me, as this one does. A great way to end what is the last song on the standard album.

Yankee Doodle Dixie (Bonus Song)
This is an amalgamation of Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dixie, at least in tune and the few lines of lyrics we actually get. A fun little interlude.

Facebook Friends (Bonus Song)
When I first saw this was the title of one of the songs on the album I cringed, but was that just me being incredibly antiquated and is it no different to people writing songs about talking on the phone? It’s a decent tune, but even after listening to it I can’t get my head around a song about Facebook – it just seems to crass and something I’d expect from Justin Bieber. The song is a dichotomy of traditional sound and, well, Facebook!

Get Even (Bonus Song)
OK, so we’re back on the relationship gone bad vibe as this song advises the scorned female to get back at her cheating husband by cheating on him. What kind of advice is that? OK, it’s not a totally serious song, but really, after Karate I’m thinking Bard Paisley should definitely not seek future employment as a relationship counselor. It’s a good tune though with a nice duelling guitar and violin section which really appealed to me.

Southern Comfort Zone (Acoustic Version) (Bonus Song)
I love acoustic music and giving the title song of this album that treatment to end this deluxe version of Wheelhouse is perfect, and sounds absolutely fantastic.

Though I have a few objections to content and musical direction, all in all Wheelhouse is a fantastic album, with a great variety of songs and moods, though sometimes relying a little heavily on bad relationships for material. Great vocals, interesting lyrics and some masterful musicianship, Brad Paisley’s latest album brilliantly combines his superb ability to put stories to music. I used the word fun a number of times in this review and it seems like Brad had a lot of fun making this album, which in some way reminds me of Jerrod Niemann’s Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury with its mix of humour, song styles and personality. If I were to give this album a rating it would be 4.5 out of 5. With a lot of great albums coming out in 2013, Wheelhouse is going to be hard to beat.

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Brad Paisley Gets a Yes, The Mavericks a No

The title of this post should have The Mavericks mentioned first, but I wanted to lead with the positive, in the title at least. So the friend who I mentioned in this post, aside from trying to get me to a country gig, is also a big fan of The Mavericks. As such I decided to check them out and got The Definitive Collection; a best of collection from 2005 with 20 of their greatest hits.

Going into this CD the only song I knew of theirs was Dance The Night Away. Before we get carried away, it’s not with fondness that I remember this song, but with memories of it being overplayed on the radio and becoming one of those songs that ends up grating on you. At least that’s burning impression it left on me after all these years. I’m sorry to say that listening to this album did nothing to change my opinion of The Mavericks and I never actually got past the 5th song. What I heard was 5 songs that sounded very much like a wedding band and not what I expected to hear from a band that seem to get talked up to legendary status. I’d hoped it was just the first song but as each one came at me sounding similar I knew The Mavericks were not for me. Should I have given them more of a chance? Possibly, but when the first 25% of what is supposed to be their best has me grasping for the eject button, well it’s never going to end well. Life’s too short and there’s so much more music out there for me to discover and appreciate. So it’s adios to The Mavericks, sorry John.

Now moving on to another legend of the country music scene, the man we call Brad Paisley. To add a little background, I’ve owned two Brad Paisely albums for a while and not even listened to them more than once before this week – in fact one still remains in need of a updated listen. I got Who Needs Pictures for a whole pound at a car boot sale sometime last year. I got This Is Country Music later on the same year and have tragically only listened to it once.

Fast forward back to late last week and I watched a performance from Brad on the Jimmy Kimmel show where he played his latest single: Southern Comfort Zone. I loved the lyrics, loved the sound and was impressed by Brad’s guitar prowess. At this point I wondered why, in my 11 month journey into country music so far, I hadn’t listened to more from this axe wielding cowboy?

In a quest to listen to more from Brad I didn’t go to one of the two albums of his I own, something that will strike you as even more bizarre when you factor in that I had been talking about This Is Country Music with the same friend who likes The Mavericks, just one week previous. No, instead I went out and got Hits Alive. Yes, I know I should be listening to whole albums and not best ofs, but this a 2 CD set where the 2nd disc is live tracks, and I’m a huge fan of live music recordings. Factor in that it was less than £7 from a seller on Amazon and it was hard to resist.

From the moment I started playing that CD I knew I’d spent almost a whole year listening to all kinds of country music and had not in that time been listening to someone who in all probability will quickly rise to become one of my absolute favourites. The same skilled musician and great vocalist that I saw performing Southern Comfort Zone was present for every song, but even more so the songs resonated with me, maybe almost as much as Rodney Atkins Watching You. In complete contrast to The Mavericks album, I found myself loving song after song. Anything Like Me and Little Moments became instant favourites and listening to this collection of hits left me wanting to hear each and every one of his albums.

Since first listening to Hits Alive I have actually gone back and listened to This Is Country Music again, and yes, it’s absolutely brilliant. I haven’t yet played Who Needs pictures yet but it will be on the list for some time this weekend. I’m now looking forward to his new album Wheelhouse which comes out in April and have had American Saturday Nights recommended to me by @TommyCarter14 on Twitter. I caused a mini stir on Twitter yesterday when I announced that I’d voted for Carrie Underwood over Brad in the Taste of Country Bowl 2013. Just now writing about how much I liked Hits Alive, This Is Country Music and Southern Comfort Zone, I may have voted for the wrong person after all.

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