By Brian Ives
Brad Paisley’s new album, Love and War, sees him splitting the difference between honoring country music’s past, being very much in the present and looking to its future. This is evident simply by glancing at the guest list, which includes “Whisperin'” Bill Anderson, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, John Fogerty and Timbaland.
Johnny Cash figures into the album in an interesting way. “Gold All Over the Ground” is based on a poem that Cash wrote for June Carter in 1967, and the song features snippets of Cash talking about her; Paisley composed the music. To complete a Cash song from decades past is a tall order, but Paisley proves that he’s up to that somewhat intimidating task.
“Dying To See Her,” featuring Anderson’s “whispered” spoken vocals echoing Paisley’s singing, is a classic country ballad about a man looking forward to his death, so his can be reunited with his late wife.
Of course, this is Paisley, so not everything is dour and glum; “selfie#theinternetisforever” is as current as Brett Eldredge’s Snapchat account (but will have more staying power than anyone’s snaps). And his “Drive of Shame” featuring Mick Jagger (who co-wrote the song with Paisley) is a raucous morning-after romp that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Jagger’s better solo albums (or the Stones’ Voodoo Lounge). Elsewhere, on the title track, he teams up with John Fogerty for a serious look at veterans returning home to an uncertain post-war life.
Paisley recruits hip-hop producer Timbaland on “Grey Goose Chase” and “Solar Power Girl,” but Tim doesn’t make his presence known via the audio branding that he’s often done on past productions. They’re just upbeat country songs with a bit of a modern sheen. In fact, you’d never know that Timbaland worked on them without his name being mentioned in the credits, and that’s likely the future of country music (and most popular music): a seamless gumbo of different styles mixing to make something new and fresh-sounding.