Hunky country crooner Brad Paisley looks like John Mayer in a Wal-Mart ten-gallon, so it makes me happy that his third album, the excellently art-directed Mud on the Tires, is such a body-rocking wonderland. “That’s Love” features sawdust fiddle licks to match the plastic lip-smacking he does over his wife’s burnt steak (known chez Paisley as “bad gravy on a Goodyear tire”); the bonkers insurance-scam yarn “The Cigar Song” is lit up by Randel Currie’s bad steel-guitar medicine; Paisley’s close-harmony whinny redeems “Celebrity” ‘s ten-gallon Wal-Mart sociology (“When you’re a celebrity, it’s ‘Adios, reality'”).
But as with Brooks & Dunn’s latest, Mud on the Tires is most notable for the way it repudiates Big Nashville’s reputation for emotional ambiguity. Paisley makes a mission of it in “Little Moments,” when his lady falls asleep on his arm (after burning his birthday cake), and though it’s “tingling and it’s numb,” he can’t bear to move it since “she looks so much like an angel.” And in “Hold Me in Your Arms” (the best Roy Orbison revamp not on the new Mavericks disc) Paisley flips the script on Jeff Tweedy’s mealy-mouthed melancholy: “You’ve got reservations/Well, darlin’, so do I/But mine are at a restaurant/Six-thirty, Friday night.” Feels good, don’t it?
Matt Cibula’s review of Charlie Robison’s Live