Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay – 2014 (EMI Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Eric Paslay

You may not have known the name Eric Paslay prior to his debut disc, but chances are you've heard his songs in the past few years. The red-headed Texan has enjoyed hit songs he helped pen including Jake Owen's "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," Eli Young Band's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and Love and Theft's "Angel Eyes," all of which number one on the country charts.

Paslay delivers the songs on his own release with a warm soulful voice. He extends the syllables at times ever so slightly to give a bit of extra emphasis and emotion. "There's nothing like forgiveness to resurrect the soul," Paslay sings in one of the best tracks, the soaring "Less Than Whole," which Paslay wrote with Kenny Alphin (the "Big" in Big & Rich).

The milder material (the fast beat of "Here Comes Love") tends to work best, in part, because it lets Paslay's voice come shine. That is particularly true on "She Don't Love You" with sad musical sounds behind Paslay's measured vocals.

One of the weakest songs is actually the hit single, "Friday Night," originally on Lady Antebellum's "Own the Night." There is a musical similarity somehow to Katy Perry's "California Girls," and the song comes off as a bit too tailor-made for radio. A few songs - "Never Really Wanted" and the undeniably catchy "Like a Song" - fall prey to that.

While many of Paslay's contemporaries are intent on obliterating the lines between country and rock as much as they can, Paslay veers more towards the country side although with a contemporary sheen. He opts for acoustic guitar often (which he himself plays) and mandolin from Ilya Toshinsky and Jonathan Yudkin. The mando is particularly prominent on "Country Side of Heaven" with its gospel/spiritual bent and "Here Comes Love." Paslay gets even more religiously themed on the closing song - the only song he wrote solo - "Deep As It Is Wide" about approaching heaven.

Having a few hits even if for others helps a lot, but that leads to a songwriting career. Paslay shows on his debut that he is more than the person who writes the songs.