Saturday, September 22, 2007

Not all '90s Nashville country sucked
There's 1,352 guitar pickers in Nashville

Nashville regularly produces stars -- Randy Travis was one -- who are hailed as revivalists of traditional country music, and defenders against the country-pop pap that is the Music City's lifeblood. I love traditional country music (though I'm actually more okay with country-pop pap than you might expect), so I always take note when the latest savior comes along.

One of them was Brad Paisley, the West Virginia native who is the youngest cast member of the extremely tradition-bound "Grand Ole Opry." I like some of his music very much, especially the witty 1999 single "Me Neither."

But I can't say that I am awed by him, or that he has singlehandedly ushered in a new era of ubiquitous old-school honkytonk. His singing is fine, though on his records it sometimes has the slightly metallic quality that lets you know savvy Nashville sound engineers may be digitally correcting his pitch. His songwriting, too, is fine, but to these ears he relies too heavily, as seemingly most Nashville songwriters do now, on the shortcut that is slant rhyme.

Still, one thing Brad Paisley has is astonishing guitar chops, and I have long appreciated the fact that, in what is very definitely a retro choice, he includes instrumental cuts on his albums. Whatever else you can say about Nashville country, Nashville musicianship is as good as you'll find anywhere. So bravo to a mainstream artist who maintains the great old tradition of the country-music instrumental track -- like the one I am celebrating here, the thrilling "The Nervous Breakdown," from Paisley's 1999 debut Who Needs Pictures.

As you'll hear, Paisley can sling a Telecaster with the best of them. Look on these works, ye guitar geeks, and despair.

Brad Paisley - "The Nervous Breakdown"

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