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Brad Paisley, honky-tonking in Tampa

The country singer ushers in today's release of his fourth album with interviews and an acoustic show.

By SEAN DALY
Published August 16, 2005


[Arista photo]
Brad Paisley will give interviews at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino this afternoon. He performs tonight at the Dallas Bull in Tampa, where only the first 700 people will be admitted.

TAMPA - When country star Brad Paisley releases his surefire smash album Time Well Wasted today, he won't be celebrating the big launch in La La Land with actor wife Kimberly Williams or cruising Nashville looking for a good ol' time.

Nope, the hunky singer will be getting his cowboy kicks right here in Tampa, performing an intimate acoustic show at the Dallas Bull, the kind of true-blue honky-tonk Paisley prefers.

So just how did such a major music-biz moment land in our back yard?

"We've been doing a lot of CD release parties, and believe it or not we do 'em at the Dallas Bull," explains Heidi Heinz, director of marketing and promotions at WQYK-FM, the ever-powerful country radio station sponsoring tonight's promotional appearance. "Strangely enough, (major country artists) love to go back to the honky-tonks."

In the afternoon, the 32-year-old Paisley will be at Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where he'll give umpteen interviews to radio stations all over the nation. And then at night, Paisley, who routinely sells out arenas, will entertain one of his smallest crowds in years. Doors open at 6 p.m., with only the first 700 people getting in for the show.

"We asked him, "Do you want to play at Floyd's (a restaurant and trendy nightspot at the Hard Rock)?' " says Heinz. "He said no, he wanted to play in a country bar."

Heinz laughs: "Have you heard his new song, Alcohol? That might have something to do with it."

Indeed, Alcohol is a pedal-steel-woozy tune sung from the perspective of booze. As the slow, last-call keeper goes: "I got blamed at your wedding reception, for your best man's embarrassing speech. And also for those naked pictures of you at the beach."

Just a few albums into his career, the West Virginia native has become a major force in country music. He's drawn high-praise comparisons to George Strait and Alan Jackson, fellow "neo-traditionalists" who have made a fortune respecting country's roots while keeping things catchy. Unlike rap-lovers Big & Rich ("neo-outlaw"), beach bum Kenny Chesney ("neo-Parrothead") or crossover king Tim McGraw ("neo-lame"), neo-trad acts have cred among both new fans and old-schoolers, Tim McGraw moms and George Jones purists.

Paisley, who pens most of his songs, has grown famous for having an XXXL sense of humor and a big beating heart, a marketable one-two punch that shows up in bunches on Time Well Wasted. His fourth full-length album is a tad bloaty at 15 tracks, but it's also stuffed with soon-to-be hits, including duets with Dolly Parton (the contemplative When I Get Where I'm Going) and Arista label mate Alan Jackson (the sorta-sequel to Alcohol, Out in the Parkin' Lot). Whereas Paisley's previous albums threaded old-fashioned values with punny twists, this disc amps up the fun, fun, fun, a carpe diem approach that will no doubt result in a whole lot of chart-topping.

It also helps that Paisley has become a whiz-bang guitarist, a quick-draw artist whose sturdy-but-nimble style falls somewhere between the picking of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler. It takes a fast, clever drummer to keep up with him, and that's just what Ben Sesar is: a secret weapon and a driving force. Screw your head on tight and check out wild instrumental Time Warp.

There are good times all over the disc. Opening cut The World chugs along on a walk-of-life strut as Paisley, whose thick baritone has a solid Everyman charm, cheers up a paramour feeling lost in the universe: "You think you're one of millions but you're one in a million to me." Brad's no pushover, however. On the rambunctious I'll Take You Back, he uses that same gusto to kiss off a bad date, vowing, "Let's say I get bucked off a bull and fall and hit my head. And then I get amnesia and forget the things you said. I lose my better judgment and end up smoking crack. Right then, that's when I'll take you back."

Even when Paisley starts feeling amorous, he never resorts to Hallmarkian claptrap or sings like he was dying. He just amps down the wit and lets a little mush slip through. Although there's nothing here as gut-wrenching as 2003 hit Whiskey Lullaby, several ballads pack a decent punch. Waitin' on a Woman is based on a generational twist - a Nashville specialty - as a wise but witty older man tutors a young buck on the ways of women. And the sweetly teasing She's Everything will no doubt increase Paisley's female fan base exponentially: "She's a yellow pair of running shoes, a holey pair of jeans. She looks great in cheap sunglasses, she looks great in anything."

After his 2003 album Mud on the Tires debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and was eventually certified double platinum, it was hard to imagine Paisley topping that sort of success. Not so fast: Time Well Wasted is a can't-miss whopper for sure, a strong, shaggy statement that will please great big crowds - and a very lucky small one at the Dallas Bull tonight.

-- Sean Daly can be reached at 727 893-8467 or sdaly@sptimes.com His blog is at www.sptimes.com/blogs/popmusic

-- PREVIEW: Brad Paisley will perform tonight at 9 at the Dallas Bull, 8222 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Doors open at 6 p.m.; only the first 700 will be admitted, no reservations accepted. $10 cover includes his new CD, Time Well Wasted. (813) 987-2855.

[Last modified August 16, 2005, 05:10:04]


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