Like many sophomore efforts called Part II, Brad Paisley's second album is indeed a continuation of the debut, but the singer/songwriter and guitarist hardly sounds like he's repeating himself the second time around. Instead, it sounds as if he's digging in deeper as both a writer and performer, which for the most part means that he's digging ...Read MoreLike many sophomore efforts called Part II, Brad Paisley's second album is indeed a continuation of the debut, but the singer/songwriter and guitarist hardly sounds like he's repeating himself the second time around. Instead, it sounds as if he's digging in deeper as both a writer and performer, which for the most part means that he's digging deeper into classic country, specifically the Bakersfield and honky tonk of the '60s and '70s. Ironically, one of the exceptions to the rule is the title track, a slow heartbreak ballad that sounds crafted with the radio in mind (even more ironically, it didn't turn into a hit), but apart from this song and a couple other left turns, like the too bombastic power ballad "I Wish You'd Stay," Paisley manages to make Part II sound simultaneously classic and contemporary. This is as true on lean, lively, guitar-heavy tunes like "Two Feet of Topsoil" and the rampaging instrumental "Munster Rag" as it is on the lazy, jazzy "You Have That Effect on Me," the haunting, folky "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," and his spare reading of the gospel standard "The Old Rugged Cross." And it's not just that Paisley is faithful to the sound and feel of classic country; he's a sucker for classic country corn, which surfaces as humor -- "All You Really Need Is Love," where all the hidden costs of a wedding are ticked off, or "I'm Gonna Miss Her," where he's enjoying a day fishing so his old girlfriend is slipping his mind -- and sentiment, as on the unapologetically sappy "Too Country," where George Jones, Buck Owens, and Bill Anderson are all hauled out to celebrate country clichés. It's this embrace of Nashville schtick that separates Paisley from other neo-traditionalists -- he values the music and he values the pageantry in equal measure, and he's excellent at both, as this thoroughly entertaining second album proves. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, RoviRead Less
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