Brad Paisley’s last album Moonshine in the Trunk appeared to be the beginning of the end for Brad not only from a hit perspective but a creative perspective. His 10th album was far from his greatest work and the lead single from his 11th studio album Love and War failed to even crack the top 10 despite a collaboration with Demi Lovato. “Without a Fight” tried to garner crossover appeal and win over country radio which appeared to be tiring of Paisley and they were unsuccessful. The album was delayed multiple times before finally being released on April 21st.
I’ll be honest I didn’t feel “Without a Fight” was a bad song even though I really can’t stand when pop stars do collaborations with country artists. As a lead single I could absolutely have lived with it. It was however left off of Love and War because they wanted to market “Today” which was actually successful and a number 1 song as the true lead single which I understand. But, I think “Without a Fight is better than a few songs on Love and War which clocks in at a whopping 16 songs.
For years I was on the side of more songs is better but over the last few months I have reviewed albums that would be much better if they had just left some filler songs off completely and this album is no different. Songs like “Contact High” and “Go to Bed Early” are just a complete waste of time. These are Paisley’s sexy songs on the album but to me they are just generic filler tracks that the album would benefit from their removal.
In terms of collaborations I was less than enthusiastic when the album was announced and I learned of appearances by Mick Jagger, Demi Lovato (scrapped) and 2 songs featuring Timbaland. Again, I don’t enjoy when artists outside the genre are forced into “country” songs just to get crossover appeal or to gain radio attention. First, I’ll get to where the collaborations work. “Drive of Shame” is a fun uptempo track featuring Mick Jagger. The song starts out with the two talking in the studio about the song which is something I’m starting to hear on a number of albums. It’s about a one night stand in Vegas that the guy regrets after the woman kicks him out of the hotel room the next morning. What follows is the walk of shame to his car and the drive of shame afterwards. Mick Jagger adds a coolness to this song and he isn’t simply a name on the track he actually has his own lines.
Another collaboration that stands out is “Love and War” which shines the light on the issue of the way that we treat our veterans. They go off to war and when they come home they are forgotten. This song in particular follows the story of a man who went to fight in Afghanistan and came home with a lost leg. He suffered from PTSD when he got home and he has trouble sleeping because of the nightmares.
“They say all is fair in Love and
But that ain’t true, it’s wrong
They ship you out to die for us
Forget about you when you’re done.”
Although I like the 2 songs as a whole I don’t see any enhancement that Timbaland gives to “Grey Goose Chase” or “Solar Power Girl.” “Grey Goose Chase” is a slightly bluegrass inspired song about trying to get over a girl by drinking away his sorrows. I love the instrumentation on this song (i’m a sucker for the fiddle) and Brad Paisley is an exceptional guitarist of course. “Solar Power Girl” is a cool idea and the song describes a girl leaving home for college. She was raised by her mother after her alcoholic father abandoned her and she needs to get away from home and go where there is sunshine away from the darkness that is her home.
“Dying To See Her” with Bill Anderson is another strong collaboration and describes a man who misses his wife and is literally dying to be reunited with her in heaven one day. She was his reason for living and when she passed away he died soon afterwards. The doctors had no idea why he was dying suddenly but it was clear that she was the reason. It’s an incredibly touching love song.
The two singles from the album thus far are “Today” and “Last Time For Everything.” I tend to agree with most people about the lead single. I think it’s a good song but I don’t think it’s a great song. No doubt this song will be played as the wedding song at a number of weddings. “Last Time For Everything” reminds us that there is a last time for everything in our lives. It’s a song that relates to older people as they can look back and reminisce about the days gone by. As a young person myself it makes me think about cherishing the time that I have when I am young because you don’t know when the things/moments that you take for granted will be over.
My personal favorite track on Love and War is the Johnny Cash Poem turned song “Gold All Over the Ground.” This was originally a poem that was written by Johnny Cash to his wife June and was released to the public in 2016. This is a sweet love song/poem about how if he could he would turn the ground gold for the woman he loves. He would give her everything she wanted and he would do anything for her.
“One Beer Can” and “selfie#theinternetisforever” display Brad’s humorous side. “One Beer Can” is literally about one beer can that is left after a party that a teenager throws at his house when his parents are away. When they see it he gets into huge trouble while nothing happens to his friends who attended the party. The ladder talks about our social media addiction and this selfie culture that we find ourselves in. All those pictures that you are taking of yourself will be on the internet forever and you will probably regret a lot of them.
One of the last tracks on the album is another strong track in my opinion but, I seem to have a different view on what Paisley is trying to get across and that track is “The Devil is Alive and Well.” He is talking about all of the horrible stuff going on in the world and how there is so much pain and anger in the world. He concludes that we can all agree that the devil is alive and well. The confusing part about this is that in the chorus he is reaching out to people that believe in heaven/hell and those who don’t.
“I don’t know
If you believe in Heaven
I don’t know
If you believe in Hell
But I bet we can agree that the devil
Is alive and well
Alive and well.”
So to me I believe that the devil is more of a metaphor than the actual devil himself because if we can all agree whether we believe in those things or not how could the devil be anything except a metaphor in this song?
I enjoyed this album and not just for a mainstream album. The instrumentation on this album really enhances it and as I said before Brad is a hell of a guitar player. But besides the guitar we actually get fiddle and steel guitar on a mainstream country album and we get a bluegrass influenced song which you know I love. I think the album could have been better if they just eliminated songs like “Heaven South,” “Contact High,” and “Go to Bed Early” and I didn’t feel all of the collaborations were necessary. All in all though i’m happy to see Brad Paisley get back to really good music. He was never the problem in the mainstream anyway.
Grade: B- 7.5/10
Best Songs: Dying To See Her, Gold All Over The Ground, Grey Goose Chase