This Is Country Music?
The perfect country-western song, according to David Allan Coe, has to mention each of the following: mama, trains, trucks, prison, and getting drunk.
Each gets a plug in the title track that launches This Is Country Music -- Paisley's first album of new material since 2009's American Saturday Night. It provides the unofficial recipe for the rest of the album's crowd-pleasing tunes.
Something for Everyone
As one might expect from the title, This Is Country Music aims to cover all its musical bases. After the opener sets the scene, "Old Alabama" revs things up with a salute to the beer-drinking, Daisy Dukes-wearing women of the world. It's a bit like Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," told from an appreciative male perspective.
But don't crack that Bud just yet. The mood quickly turns serious with "A Man Don't Have to Die," in which a church member implores a fire-and-brimstone preacher to loosen up. People are losing their jobs and ending their marriages. "There's hell enough to go around down here," Paisley sings. How about offering his congregation a little hope?
As if taking his own advice, Paisley follows up with the serenely silly "Camouflage," a song that makes a convincing case for doing all your shopping at the Army surplus store. It's one of the best tracks on the album.
Guest Stars Galore
No Nashville super-production would be complete without a little stunt-casting. And there's no shortage of special guests here. Things get sappy with Don Henley on "Love Her Like She's Leavin,'" overwrought with Carrie Underwood on "Remind Me," and just plain weird with Clint Eastwood on the "Clint Eastwood" (he's credited with "whistle").
Faring better are the guests spots with Alabama (on the aforementioned "Old Alabama") and a dehydrated Blake Shelton heading south-of-the-border in "Don't Drink the Water." The album ends on a high lonesome note with "Life's Railway to Heaven," an old-timey cut featuring Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow, and Carl Jackson.
Great, but not... Perfect
There's no absence of clever songwriting on This Is Country Music. "Toothbrush" charts a whole relationship through a few everyday items. "Working On A Tan" rubs in a gloriously bad pun amid the sunbathing. Every song belongs here, and every solo is where it's supposed to be. But -- and this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- the album can sound a little like a greatest hits compilation. Maybe it's just me, but that's often where my favorite songs don't make the cut.
Best Songs on This Is Country Music
- "Life's Railway to Heaven"
- "This Is Country Music"
Track list for This Is Country Music
- "This Is Country Music"
- "Old Alabama" (featuring Alabama)
- "A Man Don't Have to Die"
- "Remind Me" (featuring Carrie Underwood)
- "Working on a Tan"
- "Love Her Like She's Leavin'" (featuring Don Henley)
- "One of Those Lives"
- "Be the Lake"
- "Eastwood" (featuring Clint Eastwood)
- "New Favorite Memory"
- "Don't Drink the Water" (featuring Blake Shelton)
- "I Do Now"
- "Life's Railway to Heaven" (featuring Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow, and Carl Jackson)