- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tucked midway into his new album, "Part II," country-music singer Brad Paisley takes a significant step in his young and promising career.
The song is "Youll Never Leave Harlan Alive," by Darrell Scott. Its about being trapped in a coal-mining town.
"You see these coal-mining towns and these people stuck in the middle of them with black lung disease and houses owned by the mine. And youve got no way out of there," Mr. Paisley says.
"I really was concerned about cutting that cause I wanted to make sure I captured it. Had I not, I wouldnt have put it out," the 28-year-old singer says.
The song marks a departure for Mr. Paisley, who has established a wholesome perspective where "love at first sight" lasts ("We Danced"), your stepfather becomes your best friend ("He Didnt Have to Be"), and rejection is played for laughs ("Me Neither").
For all the success of his first album, "Who Needs Pictures" — including big hits, critical acclaim and a gold record — his rosy viewpoint skirted dangerously close to sanitizing the music of Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings.
Although "Part II" is, in both title and feel, a continuation of the first, the spell is broken briefly by the gritty song about coal-mining life, "where you spend your life just thinkin of how to get away."
A native of Glen Dale, W.Va., Mr. Paisley knows the territory well.
"Thats the reason ([the song] hit home for me so hard," he says, "because [in] my home area, its either coal or steel mills. Those two. You either do that or you move. And I moved."
His grandfather introduced Mr. Paisley to country music. He played the prestigious Jamboree USA country-music radio show in Wheeling, W.Va., when he was 12 and was a regular for eight years.
After two years at West Liberty State College, Mr. Paisley transferred to Belmont University in Nashville. An internship in the music industry led to a deal to publish his songs and ultimately a recording contract with Arista Records.
Two years ago, with "Who Needs Pictures," Mr. Paisley positioned himself as a rare mainstream Nashville singer willing to champion traditional country in an era when radio stations were favoring pop-flavored songs.
On "Part II," he continues the debate with "Too Country," co-written by Grand Ole Opry star Bill Anderson.
Old-timers Anderson, Buck Owens and George Jones show solidarity by trading verses with the younger star.
Be careful not to overdose on the sugary-sweet lyrics.
Are the biscuits too fluffy is the chicken too fried?/Is the gravy too thick are the peas too black-eyed?/Is the iced tea too sweet does it have too much tang?/Are there too many lemons in mamas lemon meringue?
Too country/I dont understand.
Mr. Paisley compares the lyrics to a discussion between "a kid and his grandpa."
Elsewhere on "Part II," Mr. Paisley sings about topics that wouldnt be out of place on an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show."
In "Im Gonna Miss Her," he chooses fishing over a demanding woman. Twice he contemplates proposing marriage to a sweetheart.
On "Come on Over Tonight," written with country singer Chely Wright, he plays a bachelor having to break his vow never to marry.
Yeah, come on over tonight and well sit on the swing/Watch the pigs fly by flappin their brand-new wings/Just sit back and relax and watch me eat my hat.
Even when a woman leaves him on "I Wish Youd Stay," hes such a nice guy, he maps out her trip for her.
"Its a song thats more about true love than a lot of love songs," Mr. Paisley says. "Because that guy loves her. You can see it. … I myself have been on both sides of it. I have acted the wrong way — pouted and gotten mad and been destructive.
"And then at the times Im proudest of, Ive been the guy that said, 'OK, you need to do this. Go do this. Ill even gas your car up for you as you leave."
On his first album, Mr. Paisley proved himself an effective singer, a great guitar player and a country-music songwriter with a gift for elegant melodies.
Those qualities are evident on "Part II," along with that noticeable shot of grit in "Youll Never Leave Harlan Alive."
"I just think its all just a little bit deeper somehow," Mr. Paisley says of the new album.


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