An album review of Brad Paisley’s “Moonshine in the Trunk”
I’m not your traditional country listener. I never grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’m an atheist. I am generally a bleeding-heart liberal. That being said, I strongly feel that some of the most creative lyrical wordplay and poignant music are being created in this genre. Plus, it makes for good driving music, so I continue to listen.
Brad Paisley is one of the more interesting artists in the genre. He always has some kind of message in his albums, but his attempts are often muddled and ham-fisted (see the “Accidental Racist” controversy). He has a keen ear for prodding his conservative base with a more liberal set of politics and social views. This infuriates liberals because he doesn’t go as far as we would like. Contrast this with Kacey Musgraves, whose first album was unabashedly liberal, courted controversy, earned wide praise from liberal commentators and media, and even gained some commercial success. Paisley will never be confused for Musgraves, but in return, he has wider commercial appeal. I’m not enough of a firebrand to demand that Paisley use his platform as a bully pulpit, but I understand the choices he made.
The fine line that Brad Paisley walks is why I enjoy listening to his music. His melodies are generally unoffensive. His lyrics are usually quite clever. Some of his songs espouse politics that appeal to me.
Overall, Moonshine in the Trunk is pretty decent. It’s not a traditional country album, but it isn’t pop, or bro, or rock country either. Half the songs are boring party songs, but the other half are full of thoughtful lyrics. However, it is pretty annoying that this album intersperses the party songs with the thoughtful songs and I get whipsawed from being absolutely bored to thinking about the lyrics.
Crushin’ It – A friend of mine really likes this song, but I think the narrator’s resignation to alcohol is kind of sad. (“I figured this out in college […] that I was going to wind up near the bottom […] but I’m the king of getting unwound”) It’s a basic party song, but it isn’t as uptempo as the quintessential party-country band, Florida Georgia Line.
Clever lyric: “It’s been a long time / Since […] I nailed it as they say. / I guess I’ve been in a dry spell but that’s about to change”
River Bank – A fun song that is best thought of as a summer anthem. In the song, the narrator enjoys his life because he has filled it with rich experiences rather than wealth.
Clever lyric: “But we have got each other and gas in the tank / We’re laughing all the way to the river bank”
Perfect Storm – This song is Brad Paisley’s best song on this album. It’s a classic Brad Paisley love ballad. Just go listen to it.
High Life – In this song, Paisley makes fun of our litigious society and a minor legal controversy he got into. Unfortunately, frivolous litigation is a safe target to criticize so I award him no points. I also have to wonder about whether Chick-Fil-A paid for this song, given all the mentions.
Moonshine in the Trunk – party song, but it’s fun
Shattered Glass – In this song, a narrator sings to his daughter hoping that she will break the glass ceiling. I really like this song, but I criticize the narrator’s passivity with regard to the glass ceiling. (“It’s fun for a guy like me / Sitting here in your shotgun seat”.) Men have at least as much (if not more) responsibility as women to remove the glass ceiling. This might be a prime example of Brad Paisley walking that line between commercial safety and radical politics.
Limes – party song
You Shouldn’t Have To – A love ballad that misses the mark. It’s probably unfair to compare this to “Perfect Storm,” but the songs are on the same album, so it’s unavoidable. This song seems to be all about a man doing things that a woman stereotypically doesn’t want to do. My problem with this song is that while “Perfect Storm” feels individualized to the quirks of a particular woman, this one seems generalized to all women which feels mildly sexist.
4WP – This is one of my favorite songs on the album, but only because I follow country music drama. The fight between bro-country and more traditional country has been going on for the past few years with heavyweights weighing in on all sides. While the lyrics and imagery of this song are lifted from the bro-country milieu, Brad Paisley sings with an inflection that makes me think he’s satirizing that subgenre. I could be wrong and Paisley could be a full bro, but that uncertainty is what makes this song fun to listen to.
Cover Girl – Boring song, but sounds fine.
Gone Green – Very traditional sounding country song with lyrics that either makes fun of the environmental movement, or makes fun of rednecks for treating environmentalism initially with disdain but then resort to it for economic reasons. I’m not sure and honestly it’s kind of a boring song. Also like the background vocals here.
Clever lyric: “I swear to God on a stack of Nooks” I suspect we’ll still have book Bibles around for these kinds of ceremonial things because the books aren’t really used as books. Instead, the books are symbols that transmit a shared culture through generations. That symbolism isn’t the same with a Nook, so we’ll still have bibles.
American Flag on the Moon – I’m a sucker for patriotic songs, so I love it. I hate the children’s choir though. What a gimmick. Paisley opens up with a reference to Congressional gridlock, but spends the rest of the song describing how America has achieved greatness by doing things.
Country Nation – This song might be the most commercial thing I’ve ever heard. That said, it does its job well.
Me and Jesus – This is a solely acoustic song that really shows off Brad Paisley’s good voice.