By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 2001
f anyone should be considered the poster boy for traditional country music today, it's Brad Paisley.
The West Virginian has made no secret whatsoever about his love of old school country, the Grand Ole Opry and the folks who he thinks made the music great.
He may wear a hat, but Paisley has never been considered part of the erstwhile hat pack brigade.
When Paisley was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in February, The Possum, George Jones, wrote a letter, stating, "When Randy Travis came along he brought back enthusiasm for traditional country music, then more recently, Alan Jackson has reminded fans of how great traditional country music is, and now I am counting on you to carry on the tradition and make folks sit up and listen to what good country music should sound like."
"It's a catch 22," says Paisley on a cellphone during an interview from Nashville prior to the release of his second album "Part II." "Part of me is so proud of the fact that I'm seen as a traditional artist. Most of me is proud. That's what I want to be seen as. No one can sit there and say I'm not. That's a good feeling. That's what I was hoping to be labeled as."
"The catch 22 is this is a very divisive topic in country music right now," says Paisley, 28. "There are people who really get offended by somebody (like me). They think what do you have against the new stuff? There are people on the other end who feel like the new people who have something against the old stuff. That's just unhealthy. The thing about it that I try to dwell on in that my heroes are happy with me. Buck Owens - we talk about once a week. He seems to love me like a son. That feeling, that camaraderie was one of the reasons I wanted to do this in the first place."
"Here's George Jones, probably the greatest living country singer of all time. He's just one of those legends. He's done it all. He's the reason we even have places like the Opry that we can go to and have country music. He has done more for the sound for what you consider the sound of a country singer and song, and here's this guy who says he likes what I am doing."
Paisley wants to make it clear he is not condemning other musicians.
"Just because I stand up for tradition music doesn't mean anybody else is wrong to do the other stuff. Maybe that was something they artistically needed to do. Me, that doesn't fit me. You see me doing a record like that, I've lost it because that's just not me, and I'm probably grasping at straws."
After being one of the few traditional country acts to have much success in recent years at a time when the pop and rock sound of folks like Tim and Faith are ascendant, Paisley shies away from being the torchbearer and savior of traditional country in the 21st century.
"There must be somebody out there cutting down timber and building a cross," jokes Paisley. "I don't know that I'm willing to die for it. A martyr for its cause? I don't know. I just hope people like what I do."
Chances are those who liked Paisley's debut will enjoy "Part II."
And that is no coincidence, according to Paisley.
"This one sort of came from the same batch of songs the first album came from. They were all written about the same time back in the early and mid '90's before I had a record deal. I had collected enough songs that I couldn't put them all on one album. I had enough uptempos and ballads, I had enough things that I wanted to cut. I might have had eight ballads, but I couldn't put eight ballads on the first album."
Paisley mixes it up with shuffles, honky tonks, an instrumental, a gospel track and "Too Country," featuring Jones, Buck and Bill Anderson. Many of the songs contain a story.
The new batch, with a harder-edged country sound than the debut, is not exactly for the pop country crowd.
The first single is "Two People Fell in Love," a look at generations of '
a family occurring because "two people fell in love."
"I just feel that 'Two People' was the right sentiment and the right way to kick off this album. It really says something that feels like a first single. Sometimes coming out with a first single that's a depressing ballad, that's not always the way to kick off a record."
Paisley says the single demonstrates "we're back. Here's what we have to say now."
The song did not come about so easily.Tim Owens and Kelley Lovelace, who does a lot of writing for Paisley, wrote together one day in Nashville. Paisley was not slated to join them, but stopped by on his way to dinner.
"It was really interesting because they were in the middle of writing something that they weren't fired up about at all. It was sort of one of those things that neither one of you wants to admit when you're in the middle of writing it. You know in your gut it's not going anywhere but you don't want to pull the plug and forget it. They played it for me, and I asked what they thought of it, and they said, "I don't know, and I said "I don't either."