Play It Louder
By Shane Harrison
Play is a big gamble—a largely instrumental album from one of country’s most reliable hit makers. You can just hear the Nashville suits gnashing their teeth, asking, “Where are the hits?” They might be here, but only among the four vocal tracks. Play is at its best, though, when Telecaster master Paisley is tearing it up on his twangy six-string. On album opener “Huckleberry Jam,” Paisley’s guitar rolls and tumbles like an Olympic gymnast, trading licks with the pedal steel and banjo. Play is pretty (“Kim”), finger-popping (the cocktail jazzy “Les Is More”) and goofy fun. “Turf’s Up” sends country to the beach, as Paisley channels both the living (surf-guitar god Dick Dale) and the dead (country-guitar titan Chet Atkins). When guest six-string slingers James Burton, Vince Gill, John Jorgensen, Albert Lee, Redd Volkaert and Steve Wariner join Paisley for a romp through “Cluster Pluck”—silly title notwithstanding—it’s a Telecaster lover’s fever dream.
By Michael Saba
Brad Paisley shouldn’t have anything to prove with a bevy of platinum albums, a Grammy and Grand Ole Opry bona fides under his belt. He must be feeling restless with success, because Play dilutes the pop-country chops and cultural asides that unify his previous albums in favor of instrumental facsimiles of Dwight Yoakam and Waylon Jennings. Paisley’s funnyman self-deprecation is conspicuously absent, leaving a lifeless exercise in genre-hopping that often plagues “experimental” albums. It’s too much material to cover cohesively. The cringe-inducing “Cliffs of Rock City” shoehorns guitar, banjo and strings into the blandest heavy metal this side of Stryper. The duet with B.B. King on “Let the Good Times Roll” is blues by the numbers. At nearly an hour long, the album is a tangled braid of unworkable ideas from an artist who should stick to his forte: songs about the Internet.
Listen to Brad Paisley's "Start a Band (featuring Keith Urban)" from Play on his MySpace page.