Album Review: Brad Paisley’s ‘Love and War’

Brad Paisley is leaving a lasting mark with his 11th studio album Love and War. His most ambitious record yet, Paisley enlisted the help of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Members Mick Jagger and John Fogerty, Country Music Hall of Famers Johnny Cash and Bill Anderson as well as R&B producer and artist Timbaland for the 16-track release.

While at first glance these collaborations may raise eyebrows, Paisley is one of few artists who can pull off such a versatile and seamless project. “Grey Goose Chase,” one of two collaborations with Timbaland, happens to be the most country-sounding track on the album as it features a blend of bluegrass and slick beats. The song segues into beautiful ballad “Gold All Over the Ground,” a poem borrowed from Cash that Paisley put his own music and vocals on. Meanwhile, his rock side is also showcased with a jaw-dropping duet with Jagger on the energetic “Drive of Shame” which shares the duo’s unique take on the walk of shame with rollicking guitars and Jagger’s unyielding vocals.

“Heaven South” kicks off the album and brings welcomed optimism to Love and War. The feel-good ode to the South has Paisley describing some of his favorite parts of being a Southerner: “beer-battered chicken, sweet iced tea, night crawlers, crickets and a Zebco 33.”

New single “Last Time For Everything” and the comical “Last Beer Can” follow suit and showcases Paisley’s classic songwriting which blends nostalgia and hilarity. “Kissing goodbye on her porch and driving away / Introducing her as your fiancé / Getting woke up at 5 a.m. to see if Santa came / There’s a last time for everything,” he sings on “Last Time For Everything.” Later, he strikes a chord on the personal line: “Little Jimmy on the Opry stage / Hearing Prince sing ‘Purple Rain.'”

An album highlight includes the stand-out title track which Paisley co-wrote with Fogerty. A song that addresses the issues of turning a blind eye to our veterans, Paisley and Fogerty get their point across. “And they say all is fair in love and war, but that ain’t true, it’s wrong / They send you off to die for us, forget about you when you don’t,” Paisley and Fogerty sing.

Songs like Cash’s ode to June Carter Cash “Gold All Over the Ground” and the poignant “Dying to See Her,” co-written and featuring Whispering Bill Anderson, involve more emotional tales. While the first is one of a lifelong love, the latter details a man struggling after his wife’s death. Although these two songs showcase Paisley’s sentimental side, his comical nature remains throughout the album. On “selfie#theinternetisforever,” Paisley pokes fun at our social media obsession taking often real-life examples to the extreme.

Few artists could segue as effortlessly as Paisley does from a rocking number with Jagger to a poignant ballad. While his collaborations are impressive, so is his insight. Love and War is a roller coaster ride of emotions that blends the good and evil of our society. Songs like introspective album closer “Meaning Again” offer thoughtful perspective. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life / Is that breathing don’t make you alive / You need a reason, some grander scheme why you’re here,” he concedes. It is this insight that stays with the listener long after the final note is played, making Love and War a welcomed addition to country fans’ collections.