Saturday, August 30, 2014

Brad Paisley "Moonshine In The Trunk" Album Review

     Brad Paisley has been a little bit of a mystery this past year.  Wheelhouse was a strong album in my opinion, but the sales and hit singles just weren't there.  Brad has been extremely successful throughout his career, and has always managed to keep his music traditional and commercial.  With lower sales, one had to wonder whether Moonshine In The Trunk would be a sell-out to pander to the lowest common denominator, or if Brad would hold his ground and either rise again or crash and burn on his own terms.  I'm happy to say that Brad stood his ground.  Moonshine In The Trunk is another solid Brad Paisley album and a fun ride from start to finish.

     Moonshine in the Trunk has a lot of songs that prominently feature fiddle and steel guitar, and tons of the clever story writing that you expect from Brad Paisley.  "Crushin' It" and "River Bank" are two of the weakest when it comes to lyrical content, but both have fun infectious melodies that make the songs passable.  "River Bank" particularly almost feels 90's country-esque in the chorus when he sings the high notes.   "High Life" sounds as country as you can get, and has a hilarious story about a lazy family and their get-rich-quick schemes.  It also has a surprise guest at the end that brings the whole thing together.  It is typical Brad, as it makes you laugh and shake your head at the offbeat style of his humor.  Brad is very much like a modern day Roger Miller when he is at his best.  Brad keeps the funny going on "4WP", a song that borders on bro-country with its subject matter, but also sounds like a 1993 Alan Jackson cut musically.  There isn't anything inherently wrong with singing about trucks, its just so overdone right now.  Brad Paisley made this truck song fresh, funny, and very country.  I like it.  "Going Green" is a pretty much acoustic ditty poking fun at the current craze of environmental protection.  Emmylou Harris pops up to sing harmony and makes this song not only funny and clever, but a musical treat as well.  The best song on the album may be the title cut, "Moonshine In The Trunk".  It is a fast paces rocker with an overload of banjo and fiddle.  The lyrics about fast driving and pumping rhythm make this the perfect song to put your windows down and floor it down the highway.

     Brad isn't all funny and fun-loving on this album, however.  "Perfect Storm" is a tender love ballad with sweet sentiment.  It does feature a little steel guitar, but it also has a lot of other noise going on.  I like it, but it is a little overproduced.  "Shattered Glass" is a musical pat on the back to women and a proponent of shattering the "glass ceiling".  Its hard to argue with the position the song takes, but it almost comes off like Garth's big world-changing ballads he put out later in his career.  Seeing as I am a male, and I don't have a daughter, the song really wasn't written for me, so it makes sense I don't get moved by it.  "American Flag On The Moon" is another "world changer", this time dealing with dreaming big.   Once again, its hard to argue with the mission of the song.  I like the inspirational message of the song, and the added effect of having a clip from JFK to introduce it really adds to it.  "Cover Girl" is a fun little love song where Brad gushes about his bride's beauty.  Its hard not to picture Brad singing this to Kim.  It has a catchy melody and sounds like it is bound to be a single. It won't save or change country music, but it isn't a bad song either.  "You Shouldn't Have To" is not really a catchy song to me, but the lyrics actually give some credit and respect to the woman in the song, which is a huge deal with all the disrespect that females receive in country music these days.  "Country Nation" is a nice tribute to working Americans, even if it is a little bit pandering with all the college football mascots thrown in.  It sounds like something Alabama would do, which isn't a bad thing.  The album closes with the fantastic "Me and Jesus", written by Tom T. Hall.  George Jones covered this song, and Brad dedicates his version to George and Nancy Jones.  Not only is it a great song that is song masterfully and perfectly produced with just an acoustic guitar, but it is refreshing to hear and see the utmost respect that Brad has for country's greats, especially Jones.  It was an extremely classy move, and really speaks to Brad's character.

     In reality, there were only two major hiccups with this album.  The first one, which was minor, was the song "Limes".   It really isn't funny or catchy.  Every album has a skipper, "Limes" is my skipper.  It just doesn't work at all.  The other was in the marketing of this album.  Brad has been "rebelling" against his label by releasing (or leaking as he called it) tracks prior to the album's release, while his label fumed and sent his disparaging emails, which he shared.  The label responded by leaking Brad's person email to fans so they could flood his inbox.  Except that didn't happen.  It was all one big marketing scam.  How do I know?  Because I'm not an idiot.  If Brad would have come clean and told everyone this was a marketing strategy, then it wouldn't be a big deal.  But hordes of Paisley fans believe this and are calling him a "rebel", and worst of all, an "outlaw", when he is doing the opposite.  He is playing the game the label wants him to play.  It isn't a huge deal, but it really is disheartening to someone who is a fan of Waylon and Willie, guys who did have to fight their label for their music, and were outlaws, to see this glorified commercial portrayed in the same light.

     All that being said, the music is what it is all about, and Moonshine In The Trunk delivers.  I was very skeptical, and I shouldn't have been.  Brad Paisley isn't going anywhere.  His heart still rests in country music, and he keeps cranking out good stuff.  Moonshine in The Trunk is a solid album from start to finish, and a great reminder that mainstream country can still be enjoyable and traditional while retaining its marketability.  Thanks for keeping it country, Brad!

Standout Tracks: "Moonshine In The Trunk", "4WP", "High Life", "American Flag On The Moon", "Country Nation"

"Moonshine In The Trunk"


"River Bank"

"Me And Jesus"

"Country Nation"

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