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Here in the UK country music has been only made occasionally hip when it comes suffused with real roots credentials (cf: Alison Krauss) or as some kind of precursor to punk attitude (alt country's roots in acts like Steve Earle or Lyle Lovett) but the real stuff, that sells in gazillions throughout its homeland can be a step too far. Brad Paisley's 6th album sums this up perfectly. It contains some of the smoothest, slickest and breath-taking playing this side of the Pecos. It's a masterclass in concise, witty and touching songwriting, but lyrically it's a microcosm of smalltown, mid-Western life that probably will leave us cold Northern European types unmoved.
It's difficult to decide as to whether this is a good thing. Or even why this should be less credible than a far more mannered approach to blue collar life as portrayed by someone like Bruce Springsteen. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson actually express a love of their traditions.
For sure songs as defiantly unreconstructed as "I'm Still A Guy ('When you sees a deer you see Bambi, and I see antlers up on the wall... hell with all of these men lining up to get neutered it's hip now to be feminised. But I don't highlight my hair I've still got a pair. Yeah honey, I'm still a guy') veer wildly onto the wrong side of sexism. On ''Ticks'' he even seems to be comparing his girlfriend to livestock of some sort. Yet it's plain that Paisley's new traditionalism is a far cry from truly redneck fare like Toby Keith. This is, then, true country music: Unashamed of being solidly American yet still suffused with enough humour and skill to lift it out of the ordinary.
Brad's way with an axe is still peerless. ''Throttleneck'' and ''Mr Policeman'' use the album's central 'concept' – cars (and what could symbolise middle America more perfectly?) to give you that *Smokey And The Bandit/Dukes Of Hazzard *chase scene thrill to great effect.
Elsewhere Brad just does what he does best : cracks wise and barnstorms on his telecaster. Of course there's still room for corn. ''Letter To Me'' has him giving advice to his teenage alter-ego, while ''It Did'' with its references to babies with their momma's eyes etc. will possibly prove too sickly for most of our jaded palettes.
The fact is that this is music never meant for British ears. Paisley's a stadium-filler, yet hardly ever sets foot outside of the USA. He doesn't need to. This motor's not broke, so why fix it? But if you can put your prejudices on hold for an hour you might just find yourself warming to his good natured, down home form of genius. Talent is talent after all...