When you try to boil down Brad Paisley’s story down to a paragraph or two, it feels so country-twang perfect that you’d swear it was something dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter. His grandpa gave him his first guitar at age 8, and by 13 he was opening for acts such as The Judds and Ricky Skaggs. And the rest, as they say, is history. In Paisley’s case, that means six previous gold albums and 14 hit country singles.
Paisley’s appeal has always stemmed from a combination of an easy-on-the-ear baritone voice, smooth-as-molasses country rhythms and lyrics about everyday life and love—all laced with wink-beneath-your-Stetson nods to some rebellious antics that are at odds with Paisley’s more family-friendly messages. Not too much has changed with American Saturday Night, save perhaps the proportion of positive to objectionable content.
The majority of Paisley’s tunes this time around deal with love won, love lost, and the incomparable joys of family life. “Then” proclaims the wonder of a maturing married relationship (“Like the river meets the sea/Stronger than it’s ever been/We’ve come so far since that day/And I thought I loved you then”). Likewise, “Welcome to the Future (Reprise)” focuses on the joys of parenthood: “I wondered … what would our kids look like/Well I guess I got my answer/As I tucked them in tonight.” Elsewhere, a dad sweetly imagines his son’s future (“Anything Like Me”), a man hopes to look after his loved ones’ needs for many years (“I Hope That’s Me”), and a husband marvels at his wife’s impressive strength (“She’s Her Own Woman”).
One of the album’s most memorable tunes, “No,” recounts a grandfather’s wisdom about prayer as he delivers it to his grandson. “When I think of all the answers in my life/I would have to say/There’s no doubt it was always for the best,” grandpa says. “Make no mistake, every prayer you pray gets answered/Even though sometimes the answer is no.” Other spiritual allusions turn up on “Welcome to the Future,” which lifts a line from “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (“Glory, glory, hallelujah”) and mentions Martin Luther.
The title track celebrates cold Coronas, French kisses and a fraternity’s toga party. “Catch All the Fish” grins at a weekend that’s more booze than bass (“Now we’re stuck out here/With lots of empty cans/And worthless fishing gear/’Cause we drank all the fish/And we caught all the beer”). “Water” relishes ice cold brews, wet T-shirt contests and winks at skinny dipping (“It won’t take long/’Fore you and her got nothin’ on but water”). “Then” fondly recalls a dating couple who took “45 minutes to kiss goodnight.” And “The Pants” alludes to sex when Paisley chides a macho cowboy, “Just wait ’til that woman has a headache/And she sits there with her legs crossed/We’ll see how strong you are.” A few uses of “h—” and “d–n” turn up as well.
Paisley’s tunes are toe-tappingly infectious, and his lyrics—especially those praising parenthood—are trending toward a more mature sensibility in comparison to previous efforts. But while the proceedings on balance offer more positive messages than problematic ones, the singer can’t seem to avoid the temptation to indulge some good ol’ boy drinkin’, skirt chasin’ and a bit of cussin’ too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.