Brad Paisley Love and War Album Review

Image result for brad paisley love and war

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

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This Month’s Rigmarole Featuring Country Music Minds

Hello everyone! Leon of Country Music Minds and I decided to do this collaboration piece to discuss the month of March in music as well as any other notable news. Below you will find the transcript to our conversation. Enjoy!

 

Alex: I’ll start with the first thing I covered this month. I know we both covered the Nikki Lane album. What were some of your thoughts about it?

 

Leon: I honestly thought it was pretty good. It didn’t quite click with me as “great”, but it’s a very fun album. I think the beginning is definitely very strong. The middle sort of winds down, and it ends on a high note with “Forever Lasts Forever”. I’d still say for me it’s a 7.5 but again, fun album

 

Alex: Yeah, for me it kind of fits in where a lot of albums have for me so far this year and that is the B+ 8/10 range. So pretty good but I wouldn’t call it great.

 

Alex: I feel like I give too many albums that grade sometimes but, I think it’s accurate

 

Leon: You know, that’s what I’d say about a lot of albums this year. Pretty good, maybe even great, but not something I may return to all that often. There really hasn’t been a consensus “excellent” album other than maybe Sunny Sweeney’s latest, but even that’s subjective

 

Alex: Right. I think it’s been a down year for albums but I expect big things from Stapleton and the Zac Brown Band later in the year. I think the independent side is lacking compared to the last couple years

 

Leon: I get what you mean though. 7 is probably my most common grade this year (or 8), and it might seem stingy, but at the same time, it makes it more worthwhile when you get an album that DOES blow your mind, you know?

 

Alex: Speaking of albums that blew my mind we have to talk about Breaking Grass

 

Alex: I didn’t expect a random bluegrass find to be an album of the year contender for me

 

Leon: Zac Brown has the potential to be great, and Stapleton could be as well. With those two though, I feel like we’re going to get a ton of slower songs, and that’s fine, but at the same time I hope neither project bores me.

 

Leon: I’m actually covering Breaking Grass right now. I have the review about 50% done, so I’ll probably release the review Tuesday.

 

Alex: Oh great! Would you say its an AOY contender for you?

 

Leon: In all honesty, no, and you’ll see why later, but I definitely think it’s on the “great” end. I have to say though, it’s cool that you discovered them. How did you find out about them?

 

Alex: Well, I was looking at the different Bluegrass charts (like all the cool kids do) and I stumbled across this Bluegrass band that I had never heard of. I decided to listen to the album (not expecting much) and I was shocked. I was surprised not only at how great it was but, some of the lyrics left me wide eyed

 

Alex: Lots of murder songs and creepy songs on this one

 

Leon: Definitely, I don’t know when you’ll publish this, but I’ll spoil it anyway – I think the first half of the album is great. The more experimental side really shines through in the lyrics and instrumentation. I just don’t personally think it holds up as well in the 2nd half, with the tone shifting more towards traditional bluegrass (not a bad thing though), and the themes not being as interesting save for “Faith Moved A Mountain”. I’d still say it’s pretty great though – probably a 7.5 or an 8 (speak of the devil, haha)

 

Alex: Ha! And I can hold off publishing this until you release your review

 

Alex: The album I struggled with most this month and this year was definitely Rhiannon Giddens Freedom Highway.

 

Leon: No problem. It’s fine with me. It’s just my personal opinion anyway. That brings us to an interesting point though – reviews. I don’t like to call what I do “reviews” so much as just a music fan expressing what they thought about a piece of work. With “reviews” you feel as if you’re supposed to say everything the album supposedly stands for/is about and give an accurate representation of how the crowd might perceive it. I don’t like it. What do you think?

 

Leon: I understand that. You and Megan Conley of Country Exclusive (look Megan I’m quoting you again). That’s the beautiful thing about having so many blogs – you see different opinions. Is something good or bad? Who knows? I don’t like it when there’s music you feel like you have to either like or dislike just because of what others have said. That’s something I’m doing much better with this year

 

Alex: I struggle most with giving grades honestly. There’s a lot of second guessing on my part with that and I take that seriously. And yes I’m not sure what I do is necessarily a review either. I try to give an overview of the album and give my thoughts

 

Leon: You and Megan said the same thing I meant

 

Alex: I’ll respond to what Megan said by saying absolutely. Even though I still stand by the idea that some music is bad, I do think a lot of it is subjective. Especially in regards to grades because not everyone even grades the same way

 

Leon: For me, grading is a curse and a blessing. On one hand I do like to have a stamp in time of what I thought of a piece of work, but again, one point in time. It could change at any point. Marty Stuart’s new one has only gotten better while ironically enough I haven’t returned to Rhiannon Giddens as much. For me, it would take an act of God for me to grant a 10. I’m not an asshole (well, maybe I am), but you really know that certain grade. it belongs to the albums that have stirred you the most. 9’s for me are what you’d call the contenders. They’re excellent, but might not have that transcendent quality I’m looking for (I’ll send this now so you can see, but I’m not done)

 

Alex: I like grades because I feel that should be part of a review. It certainly helps at the end of the year when you are deciding what was the best music of the year. But it’s definitely for me difficult to give grades

 

Alex: I have second guessed my perfect grade for Sunny Sweeney and that is my favorite album of 2017

 

Leon: 8’s and 7’s are tough for me. They’re what separate great from good to me. It’s tough to make that judgment call. Again, sometimes you feel like you’re being stingy, but it’s just grades anyway. As you said, not everyone grades the same way. 6’s and 5’s are merely decent to “eh”, as you’d expect. I haven’t given a ton of grades below that, but I rarely go below 2/10. I often try to find even the slightest good in something, or even judge it on a scale. For example, this is terrible, but not as terrible as THAT. You know?

 

Alex: I have only given 1 album less than a 7/10 because I don’t even want to waste my time with albums that are below that. It takes a lot of time to do album reviews so if it’s not worth my time I don’t do it

 

Leon: Sunny’s is excellent IMO. It’s ten tracks that don’t waste time (hint to you artists – killer, no filler). But for me, it doesn’t transcend to that top place for me. There’s nothing wrong with it, and I can’t pick out a flaw. I just also can’t “feel” that 10. It’s weird. Just me though.

 

Alex: That’s why I gave it a perfect grade because I couldn’t find a flaw and I loved it. Represents country music well

 

Leon: I hear you. Last year I don’t think I graded anything lower than a 7. I get it. I do now, but that’s because my personal philosophy has shifted over the course of this blogging journey…many times.

 

Leon: And that’s perfectly fine. What defines a perfect album is different for all of us. It’s the one grade I do care about for me since I don’t want to go overboard with it, but again, for ME

 

Alex: To put into perspective the work I do for album reviews I have done 2 pages of notes on the first 6 songs on Dailey and Vincents new album lol. It’s 16 songs!

 

Leon: Actually, I have a note on negative reviews, and it might get cynical…

 

Leon: I have to give Dailey and Vincent a listen. 16 tracks though…Woah boy, haha.

 

Alex: 2 songs do not have lyrics but still lol.

 

Alex: Let’s get cynical go ahead!

 

Leon: Well, you know that piece from LA Weekly that criticized Americana acts? I don’t disagree with the spirit of that. I disagree that most of the criticisms devolved into name calling and other unnecessary remarks, but I do agree there’s a sense of elitism hidden in the entire independent side (not just Americana). The writer just did a piss poor job of expressing that. (Cont.)

 

Leon: Anyway, the reason why I started doing negative reviews again was because, it helps the honesty shine through. With mainstream albums I have no problem detailing what’s wrong or saying that something is absolute shit. With independent albums though, there’s this sense of “oh, this is SO much better”. In other words, it has to be great. I’ve unfortunately contributed to that by being swept away with it, but there’s some of it that’s absolute shit, some even worse than the mainstream. That brings me to another point (cont.)

 

Alex: I did read that. They weren’t wrong about everything they said but, the name calling in my opinion was just to rile people up to get views.

Alex: And for me I don’t care if it’s mainstream or not. That doesn’t have anything to do with how much I like something. Either it’s good or it’s not

 

Leon: Remember that piece about my contact page? I’ve had a few submissions here and there, and most of the time it’s to get an artist a review. But come on, what’s a review really mean? Honesty or good publicity? Plus, you’re getting this music for free, so obviously you owe them right? Screw that. I think it’s time to take that same mindset I take with mainstream albums and apply it to everything. Blogs are often praised for “telling it like it is”, but is that the entire truth? That’s a question about quality though, so it’s tricky to answer.

 

Leon: Oh yeah, I don’t meant to accuse you of anything, just a general observation about the entire scene. I just think there’s nothing wrong with negative feedback (just my personal philosophy). If you don’t, it creates echo chambers I think

 

Alex: I’m new so I haven’t had too many pitches but, I assume if someone asks me to cover something they expect a ringing endorsement of the work. If it’s not good and they ask me to cover it I won’t cover it because I won’t lie

 

Alex: Even though my major is PR I don’t do PR for them lol

 

Leon: Good on you. I’ve had that, and I’ve stuff pitched that wasn’t good. I just ignored them since I didn’t know what to say. That could be a good segue into another topic – blogs, and the personal pressures and drama and bullshit that come with it (as Josh Schott said). What do you think about the number of blogs shutting down lately?

 

Alex: It’s honestly pretty sad to see Country Perspective go. Josh and Trigger at Saving Country completely changed me as a music fan and that’s not speaking in hyperbole. When I was in High School and younger I listened to what was on the radio because that’s all I knew existed. When I found Country Perspective and Saving Country it changed the whole ball game. Heck if it wasn’t for Josh I probably would never have created a blog. He was a great inspiration and his work will be greatly missed.

 

Alex: You and Megan at Country Exclusive summed up my thoughts pretty well in your farewell letters

 

Leon: Agree 100%. Those were the first blogs I discovered as well. It’s sad to see, but I get it. Josh addressed the “drama and bullshit” of running a blog on his Twitter letter, and I get that. It’s hard to know what to do with a blog. In the end you have to do what makes you happy. Both on the blog and outside of the blog. You know, I’ve been rude. I’m the one asking the questions right now instead of you. What else did YOU want to discuss, friend?

 

Alex: I want to talk about Deep South before we sign off but that brings me to something I have been thinking about lately. Do you think that your excitement for new albums is being taken away to some extent when basically half the album is being released before the album? For example, I should have been over the moon excited when Josh Turner’s new album came out after 5 years. But, because I had already heard half the album the excitement wasn’t really there. Maybe this doesn’t matter but, it’s something I have been considering.

 

Leon: Good topic. In all honesty my answer would depend on the album. For some albums, if the song is really great it can get you excited for the rest of it. For example, I had no plans to cover the new Mavericks album since I found their last album pretty boring, but then I heard “Damned If You Do” from their new one, and now? I’m looking forward to hearing the album. It works the other way though. You can be disappointed as well. It’s probably not good – after all, it sets up pre-expectations, something that probably isn’t good haha. In terms of excitement, yeah, I can totally see that. At the very least, it makes some albums easier to cover since you’ve already focused on particular songs so many times

 

Alex: From a writing perspective it definitely makes it easier to review when you heard 5 songs already but from a fan perspective I have noticed a clear lack of excitement when I have heard a good deal of the album already

 

Alex: But anyway speaking of Deep South what were some of your thoughts about it?

 

Leon: Deep South? Hmm, in all honesty it hasn’t held up as well for me. I still find the title track to be a guilty pleasure, and songs like “Hometown Girl”, “Lay Low”, “Hawaiian Girl” and “Never Had A Reason” are definite highlights, but other than that it’s just pretty boring. I used to think “Wonder” was the standout, but even that I think works better as a ballad. But in terms of albums that haven’t held up well I could give you a list of albums this year. Still, happy he’s back.

 

Alex: Josh Turner could sing the alphabet and it would sound great to me but yeah his new album was disappointing

Leon: Anything else man?

 

Alex: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about or do you want to give a preview for what you will be covering in April?

 

Leon: April? Hmm….lots of stuff – Chris Shiflett, Jason Eady, Angaleena Presly, Charlie Worsham…just a few names that could make the month great. You?

 

Alex: I’ll b covering Charlie Worsham, Brad Paisley, Jason Eady and Dailey and Vincent for sure. I’m sure other things will pop onto my radar also… Hopefully I can find another gem like Breaking Grass! Haha

 

Leon: Oh yeah, Dailey and Vincent are a group I want to get to as well. This week I’m covering Steve Moakler, Breaking Grass and hopefully Trace Adkins and the Mavericks. I’ve also got some other pieces in the works (including fake news haha).

 

Thanks to Leon at Country Music Minds for joining me for this collaboration piece. It was a lot of fun having this conversation and I hope you guys found it to be interesting as well.

 

Re-Charting The Chart

Every week we will take a look at the top 30 Mediabase Country Chart. We will re-rank the songs on the chart based on the quality and overall enjoyment of each song. Next to each song I will provide the ranking that we would give it and the actual ranking on the Mediabase chart in parenthesis (From America’s Music Charts). Songs that are in the color red are songs that are either recurrent or in danger of going recurrent soon, while blue is for songs that I predict will go to number 1 at some point. At the end of each ranking there will be some thoughts about the current chart as well as any news or updates that are deemed important. I hope everyone enjoys this weekly post and feel free to comment/agree/disagree with anything you see.

  1. Zac Brown Band                                                       My Old Man (30) A
  2. Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens                     Kill A Word (8) A-
  3. Craig Campbell                                                         Outskirts of Heaven (26) B+
  4. Runaway June                                                            Lipstick (28) B+
  5. Chris Janson                                                               Holdin’ Her (21) B+
  6. Brad Paisley                                                                Today (4) B+
  7. Miranda Lambert                                                      We Should Be Friends (25) B
  8. Darius Rucker                                                             If I Told You (22) B
  9. Chris Young                                                                Sober Saturday Night (1) B
  10. Dan and Shay                                                              How Not To (19)
  11. Little Big Town                                                           Better Man (5)  B-
  12. Josh Turner                                                                  Hometown Girl (12) C+
  13. Jon Pardi                                                                       Dirt On My Boots (2) C+
  14. Luke Bryan                                                                  Fast (6) C+
  15. Jason Aldean                                                               Any Ol’ Barstool (9) C+
  16. High Valley                                                                 Make You Mine (16) C+
  17. Luke Combs                                                                Hurricane (18) C
  18. Kenny Chesney                                                          Bar At The End of…(14) C
  19. Garth Brooks                                                              Baby, Let’s Lay Down… (13) C
  20. Trent Harmon                                                            There’s a Girl (20) C
  21. Lauren Alaina                                                             Road Less Traveled (7) C
  22. Rascal Flatts                                                                Yours If You Want It (23) C-
  23. Brett Young                                                                 In Case You Didn’t Know (27) C-
  24. Keith Urban                                                                 The Fighter (29) F
  25. Kelsea Ballerini                                                          Yeah Boy (10) F
  26. Dierks Bentley                                                            Black (17) F
  27. Michael Ray                                                                Think a Little Less (3) F
  28. Lady Antebellum                                                       You Look Good (24) F
  29. Brantley Gilbert                                                        The Weekend (11) F
  30. Sam Hunt                                                                    Body Like A Backroad(15) F

New To The Top 30: Zac Brown Band “My Old Man” Such a great song. This is also the first time a song has surpassed “Kill A Word” for the top spot on my Re-Charting The Chart.

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Seein’ Red.” I would love if I never had to see Dustin Lynch on this chart again. His music is garbage and has no place on any station.

Songs I See Leaving Us Soon: “Baby Lets Lay Down and Dance” and “Lipstick” are done. I’m so disappointed to see “Lipstick” go because I love that song and Runaway June in general. No news on a new album or follow up single yet. And yeah Garth Brooks is still a thing I guess. Also “There’s A Girl” is done. 

Quick Thoughts: One of the worst songs on the chart leaves and probably the best song that will chart this year joins the chart so good news on that front. There are still too many songs that just don’t belong on the chart hell “Make You Mine” is on week 54 for pete sake. Also I added “Road Less Traveled” to songs that I predict will go number one eventually. I’m a little surprised but, it shows how powerful On The Verge can be. What helps her is that there are some songs behind her that are running out of gas that will not go number 1.