Brad Paisley featuring Alabama – “Old Alabama”
Songwriters: by Chris DuBois, Brad Paisley, Randy Owen and Dave Turnbull
With the second single from his forthcoming studio album This Is Country Music, Brad Paisley honors Country Music Hall of Famers Alabama with what will surely be a summertime staple at barbeques and beach parties. “Old Alabama,” a lite country-rock anthem of warm weather pleasures, is custom-made for listeners to crank the volume at full blast.
This mild uptempo song centers on the object of Paisley’s affections, a woman whose “idea of a romantic night is listening to old Alabama, driving through Tennessee.” Over a series of jutting guitar licks, he references classic hits from the band like “Love in the First Degree” and “Dixieland Delight.” Three members of Alabama (Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry) offer musical support in the song’s closing moments.
Paisley’s last single, “This Is Country Music,” forced the issue of what was so great about the format. In the bridge of “Old Alabama,” he gives an even less subtle nod to his favored songs. “Forget about Sinatra and Coltrane,” he sings, explaining how his woman won’t be wooed by anything but country music. He follows with further instructions—-”Barry White ain’t gonna work tonight”—and then segues into a few tweaked lyrics from Alabama’s “Mountain Music” paired with that song’s memorable melody: “Play some back-home, come-on music that comes from the heart/Play something with lots of feeling, ‘cause that’s where music has to start.” Paisley’s homage to the band is admirable, but the mention of music legends like Sinatra and Coltrane paired with these lyrics seems to distract from their talent.
“Old Alabama,” which sounds similar to Paisley’s 2007 hit “Online,” is assembly-line craftsmanship from the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year. Part of his appeal is his ability to shoot dead straight at country music’s core audience. It’s hard not to compare “Old Alabama” to Paisley’s recent summertime fare, a group of hits that were relative risks in the often conservative format. With distinctively different singles such as “Whiskey Lullaby,” “Alcohol” and “Ticks,” Paisley pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable for widespread airplay. “Old Alabama” leans heavily—-too heavily, in fact—on song mentions and recycled production.
Paisley, as close to a complete package as mainstream country has, seems to be suffering with a case of arrested development with his recent output. He offers no shortage of enthusiasm on “Old Alabama,” but the song’s quality is no match for his motivations.
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