Country Music has sometimes been described as three chords and the truth, but leave it to Brad Paisley to demonstrate just how much more expansive the genre can be on his new album, "This is Country Music." Produced by his longtime collaborator Frank Rogers, Paisley's ninth album pays tribute to the influences that have shaped the West Virginia native's hit-laden career, and some are refreshingly unexpected, including the homage to surf guitar legend Dick Dale, "Working on a Tan," and the nod to Italian composer Ennio Morricone on the western instrumental "Eastwood."
Paisley wrote or co-wrote 12 of the 15 tracks, and though the album is musically diverse, lyrically the songs are anchored in the themes of love, loss, hope and heartache that have long defined the country format. The title tune kicks off the album, providing a blueprint for the songs that follow and some of the verses that he and co-writer Chris DuBois penned that didn't make it in the final version due to time constraints are used on the album as little interludes that intro other songs. It's all woven together to provide a thoughtful, creative look at the genre from the Country Music Association's reigning Entertainer of the Year.
Vocally, Paisley has never sounded better, and the ace guitar player struts his stuff throughout, skillfully complementing the mood and timbre of each tune. He enlists an interesting mix of special guests, including Don Henley, Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow, Alabama, Blake Shelton, Clint Eastwood and Marty Stuart. Country music's most talented young ambassador has delivered the ultimate love letter to his art form with "This is Country Music."
Which songs on "This is Country Music" can be added to Paisley's greatest hits? Here's our Twitter-length track-by-track review of each song.
You be the judge: What do you think of Brad Paisley's "This is Country Music" album? Tweet us your own review at @billboarddotcom (using hashtag #bbpaisley). The best tweets will be posted on Billboard.com in the coming days.
1. "This is Country Music" - From childhood cancer to patriotism to Jesus, there's no topic that country music won't tackle, and this song celebrates the genre's virtues while name-checking some of its icons.
2. "Old Alabama" - Paisley samples Alabama's "Mountain Music" and enlists the guys themselves . High-octane rural romp that blends country's past and present.
3. "A Man Don't Have to Die" - One of the few tracks not written by Paisley, it's a compelling examination of broken lives with hauntingly beautiful harmonies.
4. "Camouflage" - An upbeat tribute to the ultimate redneck fashion statement & fun tune sure to be a favorite live, especially among Mossy Oak fans.
5. "Remind Me" - A duet w/Carrie Underwood that is destined to be a major hit, this power ballad is all about a couple looking to recapture their magic.
6. "Working on a Tan" - Paisley's a guitar wizard on this number, and fans of surf guitar legend Dick Dale will appreciate the tribute. Perfect summer song!
7. "Love Her Like She's Leaving" - Paisley tips his hat to the Eagles on this well-crafted tune about making love last. Don Henley's voice makes it even more memorable.e.
8. "One of Those Lives" - Tear-jerker that puts a bad day in perspective. Paisley sings "you're not supposed to say the word cancer in a song," yet tackles it poignantly.
9. "Toothbrush" - A sweet, simple tune that traces a relationship from first date to parenthood. It all starts with a toothbrush.
10. "Be the Lake" - Paisley has a gift for clever suggestiveness that doesn't cross the line, and this uptempo number about ogling a girl is a perfect example.
11. "Eastwood" - Paisley's sons intro this Western-themed instrumental, while Eastwood himself whistles throughout. It's got a weeping, cinematic quality.
12. "New Favorite Memory" - One of the best love songs Paisley's ever recorded, about falling in love all over again in the midst of life's simple, uneventful moments.
13. "Don't Drink the Water" - Blake Shelton joins this lively number about a post-breakup trip to Mexico. A good-natured buddy song, and as country as cornbread.
14. "I Do Now" - An instant classic steeped in steel guitar, dripping w/regret. Portrait of a man who threw it all away; pain never sounded more palatable.
15. "Life's Railway to Heaven" - Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson guest on Paisley's requisite gospel number. A lovely end to a thoroughly satisfying album.