- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

Brad Paisley

Time Well Wasted

Arista Records

Even if it didn’t boast the instant barroom classic “Alcohol” — it’s worth the price of admission for that alone — Brad Paisley’s “Time Well Wasted” would be a keeper. The fourth album from Mr. Paisley, described aptly in the current Guitar One magazine as “Eddie Van Halen on cornbread,” has enough grit, gloss and comical lyrics to satisfy country-pop fans and traditionalists alike.

Can we agree the boy can play? The 32-year-old West Virginian sports super-fast Telecaster licks that cram Texas swing, jazz, blues and good ol’ country into a serviceable package that never overwhelms Mr. Paisley’s basic pop structure. (Well, there is a show-offy instrumental, “Time Warp,” but it’s a momentary indulgence; and you’ll marvel at the way it modulates from yee-haw pickin’ to breezy Latin jazz.)

None of this would matter if Mr. Paisley’s songs didn’t measure up. Most of the time, they do. Album opener “World” starts off with the dirtiest, nastiest tone burp heard this side of T-Rex’s “Get it On” and then smooths out like an open road through the Plains. “Easy Money” mines the country-rock vibe found in the Stones’ classic “Honky Tonk Woman.” “You Need a Man Around Here” is a nice slab of red-state meat.

Mr. Paisley also can croon a sweet melody on songs like the lost-love remembrance “Rainin’ You.” He duets with Dolly Parton herself on the inspirational “When I Get Where I’m Going.”

Music Row is a tough straddle for ladies these days, what with chaw-kickin’ newcomers such as Gretchen Wilson breathing down the necks of crossover queens like Faith Hill and Shania Twain. For country dudes like Mr. Paisley, though, it’s an easier sell. He can flick on a slick delay effect on his electric guitar for the ballad “Waitin’ on a Woman” and then, later, throw in an old-time spiritual like “The Uncloudy Day” without appearing as though he’s pandering in either instance.

“Time Well Wasted” works most of all because it wears its country rags so lightly. Mr. Paisley’s too-obvious wit can grate, as on his last album’s funnin’-on-the-famous hit “Celebrity.” But here, it’s generally pretty funny. On the virtuosic shuffle “I’ll Take You Back,” for instance, Mr. Paisley piles on exaggerated variations on the “when hell freezes over theme”: “The day that old morning sun rises in the west/And they pass a law in L.A. banning artificial breasts?When Donald Trump takes a part-time job parking cars/When Clint Eastwood does ballet in a big pink leotard.”

Mr. Paisley co-wrote most of the album with songwriters such as Tim Owens and Chris DuBois. He has judicious taste in covers, too. “Out in the Parking Lot,” featuring the daddy of new traditionalism Alan Jackson, is from the great Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark. It serves up warmly observed details such as “I love to see the neon dancin’ on the gravel/And I love to hear the pickup trucks as they come unraveled” and “I’m sittin’ on the fender of someone else’s truck/Drinkin’ Old Crow whiskey and hot 7-Up.”

Mmm. Only the best country can taste like that.

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