Are you a George Jones guy in a Garth Brooks world? A Loretta Lynn gal trying to understand why people still call Shania Twain a "country" artist?
Well, then this website is for you! Here's your chance to read all about Nashville pop, from the late-'50s "Nashville Sound" and the countrypolitan scene of the '70s to today's chart-toppers and pretty-boy hat acts, seen through the lens of DJ Joe Sixpack, a hick music know-it-all with a heart of gold...
Your comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly suggestions for artists or albums I might have missed. Other types of twang are reviewed elsewhere in my Hick Music Guide.
This is the first page covering the letter "P"
(Produced by Frank Rogers)
Back in the day, it was fashionable in the circles I run in (indie-billy snobs) to pooh-pooh Brad Paisley as the last gasp of the '90s prettyboy neotraditionalist "hat act" singers, and to mock him in comparison to real hard country singers like Dale Watson or Wayne Hancock. But see, I think Paisley's kinda cool; at least, I'd rather be listening to him than to cheeseballs like Billy Ray Cyrus or Collin Raye. Paisley's definitely got something... And while this debut album was undeniably slick and deliberately crafted, it's got some nice material. It opens brilliantly, with "Long Sermon," a goofy tune about a guy who wants to run wild on Sunday morning but, since he was raised "right," has to sit through the a slow-moving church service before he can go out and play. As an country music image-building exercise, it's a stroke of genius, since it shows both a boyish rowdiness, and a family values, god-fearing traditionalism. Plus it's funny. Funnier still is the follow-up tune, "Me Neither," where a would-be barroom Romeo tries to roll with the punches as each of his pick up lines go down in flames. It's on the novelty numbers that Paisley excels, straight-up romantic material generally doesn't fare as well, in part because he doesn't really have all that great a voice, and also because he just seems more into the smart-ass stuff. On the whole, though: nice album. Definitely worth checking out.
(Produced by Frank Rogers)
An uneven album in that some songs are great, while others drag on too long. When Paisley latches onto a good gag, his comic timing can be perfect -- "Wrapped Around" and "I'm Gonna Miss Her" are awesome, sterling examples of good-natured hard country novelty songs at their best. As noted above, his delivery on more serious material can be hopelessly obvious, even sluggish at times. Though his old-fashioned acoustic-based orientation is a welcome contrast to the overinflated popatronics of post-millennial Nashville, in all honesty this is a disc that's ripe to be picked apart by the "best-of" patrol. It's worth checking out, but chances are you can live your life just fine without hearing Brad sing those ballads more than once or twice.
(Produced by Frank Rogers)
This disc starts off strong, with several good-natured, fairly straightforward hard country tunes, followed by a nice set of sensitive-guy, slice-of-life domestic portraits. Paisley considers the battle of the sexes more as a loosely organized game of tug-o-war rather than a bitter struggle to the death. His resolutely mellow, can't-we-all-get-along approach, and his affectionate embrace of his gal's human frailty rings a lot more true than the "Hey baby, I dig where you chicks are coming from, but check out my gun rack!" pseudo-macho contrivances of practically all the other cuddly studs on the current Country charts. The radio single, "Celebrity," is a funny jab at how the "reality TV" instant fame mentality has further cheapened the once-sacred traditions of stardom; unfortunately, this also also includes a song called "Famous People," which is an unnecessary rehash of the exact same theme, and signals the album's sideways slide during its second half. In some respects, the way the album unravels is admirable -- rather than try and pack every inch of disc space with hits, hits and more hits, Paisley is content to joke around and goof off. A duet with Alison Krauss (on Bill Anderson's cautionary tale of alcholism, "Whiskey Lullaby") sounds lovely, but is kind of a downer; Brad scores hard country cred points for covering Vern Gosdin's "Is It Rainin' At Your House," and his version of the gospel oldie, "Farther Along," while not electrifying, is still a nice touch. A couple of tracks falter -- "The Cigar Song" is boring, the semi-instrumental track with guest guitarist Redd Volkaert is goofy, but not that great, and "Make A Mistake" is a great concept that needs to be fleshed out and made into a real song. On the whole, though, this is a fine album, and a nice breath of fresh air from the boy band sound that's swamped Nashville in the last couple of years. Keep 'em comin', Brad!
(Produced by Frank Rogers)
He's taking himself a little too seriously this time around, and occasionally goes overboard with the production, but Paisley still has a way with clever lyrics that'll keep his twang-cred intact... The album's comedic highlight is the lazy-paced hit single, "Alcohol," which describes all the virtues of the world's favorite drug (including "helping white people dance...") and other tracks like "You Need A Man Around Here" and "Flowers" help add a little grit, while some of the ballads such as "She's Everything," "Love's Never-Ending" and "Rainin' You" send me clickin' the fast-forward button... But that's par for the course for Nashville these days, and I guess we twangfans should just be glad Brad's still trying to keep it country in the first place. The album closes with Paisley showing off his chops as a Telecaster master, including "Cornography" a raunchy, blue humor track where he swaps licks with the great James Burton, and while this stuff is interesting (and probably fun to see live), it's not as much fun as when he sings a few great country songs. This disc isn't nearly as fresh-sounding or as fun as 2003's Mud On The Tires, but it's still got several really nice songs... Definitely worth checking out!
Brad Paisley "A Brad Paisley Christmas" (Sony-BMG/Arista, 2006)
(Produced by Barry Beckett)
Parnell's rather rootsy debut set him up as a '90s version of roadhouse roots-rocker Delbert McClinton, fusing country vocals with bluesy, old-school R&B, sometimes with a 'Fifties doo-wop edge. The use of saxophone and piano triplets may have quashed any hopes of major success on the country charts (this disc had three singles in the back 'fifty...) but folks who like McClinton's work, or perhaps Conway Twitty's or T. Graham Brown's stuff in the '80s, should find a lot to like about this album. What's more, none of these early songs were included in the 1999 Arista best-of, Hits And Highways Ahead, so fans should definitely track this one down.
(Produced by Scott Hendricks)
Thank goodness the folks at Arista had faith in Parnell after his poorly-performing debut, 'cause this followup record was mighty fine. His debt to Delbert McClinton is still pretty obvious, but there's a slinkier, softer side in there as well (a wisp of Ry Cooder, perhaps?) and an interesting, pop-melodic update of the Southern rock sound... A couple of songs are duds ("Road Scholar?" Yawn.) though mostly this is a pretty funky, soulful album... Parnell's vocals, are particularly appealing... He's really into it, singing with grit and subtlety, throwing himself into every song and investing this album with a level of passion and immediacy that you don't often hear coming from the jaded confines of modern-day Nashville. He also scored his first big hits, the soft-edged "Tender Moments" and the more rollicking "What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am," which both hit #2 on the charts, the first of a handful of Top 5 hits he had in his career. Nice record; definitely worth checking out.
Lee Roy Parnell "On The Road" (Arista, 1993)
Lee Roy Parnell "We All Get Lucky Sometimes" (Arista, 1995)
A rollicking later album by this roots-rocking, slide playing neo-honkytonker. Parnell dips into a bit of roadhouse blues, with a prominent barroom piano, and some dirty, crunchy guitar. He also tilts into smoother, more commercial sounds, with ringing guitars (as on "Tender Touch"), and even some soft-spoken schmaltz (the acoustic based "Better Word For Love"). Overall, this is a pretty rich sounding record, with a wide variey of styles, and a welcome recognition of both the Nashville and Austin sides of the street. Plus, anybody who covers Guy Clark ("Baton Rouge," with Clark joining Parnell on the last chorus...) is alright by me. Check it out.
Whiteboy roadhouse soul, like a kinder, gentler Delbert McClinton; Parnell acquits himself well on this greatest-hits package, though very few of the songs really grab me emotionally. The tightly crafted production feels kinda flat, for some reason... plus I've never been a big fan of talky lyrics, and this album's full of 'em. I know I'm supposed to like this guy, but his attempts at building up country-rock anthems never really seem to take off. Character flaw on my part, I'm sure.
Twang takes a back seat to romp and stomp on this one, a houserockin' blues and soul set, with guest artists like Bonnie Bramblett, Keb Mo and Delbert McClinton adding some bluesy oomph to the proceedings. It's not my bag, but if you go for modern blues, this disc might really turn you on. Sounds like Little Feat at times, particularly on softer numbers, like the title track, which offers a welcome moment of contemplation amid the general high volume level of the rest of the album...
A strong set of smoky southern soul and roadhouse blues-tinged twangy pop... It's not really my kind of music, but I can tell this is a pretty strong record for the style. Fans of Delbert McClinton, Gary Stewart and Little Feat are gonna want to check this one out. There's grit, fire and the passion of a true believer, along with some really solid musicianship. Worth checking out!
Dolly Parton - see artist discography
Commercial Country Albums - More Letter "P"
Hick Music Index