By Brian Ives
Brad Paisley has long straddled the line between being respectful to country music’s great history and being one of the guys who looks towards its future; today, country is as influenced by classic rock and, to a lesser extent, hip-hop, as it is by the artists who graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry decades ago. And that’s reflected in the guests on Love and War. Here’s a look at five of the album’s highlights.
“Dying to See Her (featuring Bill Anderson)” – Here, “Whisperin’ Bill” adds his soft narrative to a sad song about a man lamenting the death of his wife. “He went downhill once she was gone, lost the will to carry on. They couldn’t find nothing wrong, no matter what they did, but I know the answer’s in the picture frame that’s sitting by his bed.” It’s one of Paisley’s best lyrics, and Anderson’s “whispering” echoed vocals makes them even more haunting.
“Gold All Over the Ground” – “Dying to See Her” could very well have been about Johnny Cash; it seems to tell his story after June Carter passed away. This song, however, is based on a poem written by Cash, fifty years ago, and the song features clips of Cash talking about Carter. That could come off as a bit gimmicky, but both the music that Paisley composed for the song and the classic and classy production makes this one work.
“Solar Power Girl (featuring Timbaland)” – One might think that after Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” debacle from a few years ago, he’d say far away from hip-hop. But here, Timbaland just adds a bit of (even more) modern sheen to Paisley’s country jam, which still includes some hot banjo and guitar playing. A couple of years back, Timbaland produced an album for Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and his sonic stamp was at best, distracting and at worst, overwhelming. Here, Timbaland seems to take more of a producer role than one of a co-star, a wise choice.
“Drive of Shame (featuring Mick Jagger)” – Jagger isn’t just a featured vocalist here; Paisley co-wrote the song with Jagger and Jagger’s collaborator, Matt Clifford. The good time country-rock jam, detailing the morning after wild nights in Vegas and New York, could have fit in on the Stones’ Voodoo Lounge.
“Love and War (featuring John Fogerty)” – John Fogerty railed against those “born with a silver spoon in hand” during the Vietnam War, the kids who avoided military service because they had rich parents. Here, Paisley and Fogerty sing about the lives of the guys who actually had to serve, and how that affected their lives when they came home to America. It’s not just a worthy addition to Paisley’s nearly twenty-year catalog, but also to Fogerty’s, which goes back five decades.