Forget Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Toby Keith – Brad Paisley is the real deal, the total package. His latest is a winning combination of humor, soul, sensitivity and his secret weapon, blistering guitar power. A country star with chops like this hasn’t come around since Vince Gill left Pure Prairie League, turned down a chance to join Dire Straits, and unleashed “Oklahoma Borderline” on an unsuspecting world.
On “5th Gear” Paisley shows the everyman touch. A 16-year old boy’s simple ambitions power “All I Wanted Was A Car,” while “I’m Still A Guy” is a hilarious send-up of the battle of the sexes. “In a weak moment I might walk your sissy dog, hold your purse at the mall,” says Paisley, “but remember – I’m still a guy.”
“Ticks” celebrates what may be the most absurd barroom come-on ever devised, while “Online” puts a country accent on the old axiom, “in cyberspace, no one knows you’re a dog.”
Paisley has his pensive moments on “Letter to Me,” “With You, Without You” and the pretty “Oh Love” duet with Carrie Underwood. “When We All Get To Heaven” could be part two of “When I Get To Where I’m Going” from his last album, and continues his habit of including at least one gospel song on each release.
The rockers “Mr. Policeman” and the instrumental “Throttleneck” serve notice that for all his aw-shucks twang, Paisley can play most guitarists under the table.
In a noteworthy tribute, Vince Gill lends his voice (and dubious acting talents) to a vignette by the Kung Pao Buckaroos, the supergroup-cum-sketch comedy ensemble that also includes Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Anderson.