Hits Alive - Roughstock Review

This Brad Paisley compilation album, which is presents most of the guitar-slinging country star’s best known songs in front of a live audience, acts as a reminder of just how many hit songs this man’s had, and also how doggone good all those hits are. Listening through this collection may make you feel bad for those cursed artists that have hits with, say, novelty songs, which they are required -- by popular opinion -- to play live almost every night of their life. Not so, with Paisley, however. So many of his songs are simply top tier and ought to make him proud to sing every time out. Even something like “Alcohol”, which celebrates and demeans drinking simultaneously, makes some valid points about these behavior-altering beverages’ role in history. The down side is that poor Brad’s got to watch all those uncoordinated white people dance at every stop along the tour; and that’s a crying shame. However, a song like “Whiskey Lullaby”, where drink is portrayed as the suicide weapon, reveals how downright deadly alcohol can be when misused. Paisley music can be broken into a number of various lyrical categories. For one, Paisley is a master at the touching ballad. Songs like “Then”, “Waitin’ on a Woman”, and “We Danced”, speak tenderly of romantic devotion. It’s as if this hunky, man’s man is giving the macho guys in his audience the green light to let their guard down and get a little mushy. Then there’s Paisley’s big funny side. He doesn’t write parody songs, like Weird Al. But he does find the humor in every day life (“Little Moments”), especially in our crazy modern culture. “Celebrity” points out what we already know – that the tabloid realm has simply gone crazy. And the technological advances that have propelled it (“Online”) have turned our society into a gossip-obsessed populace. It’s funny and kind of sad, all at the same time. There’s also the party-hearty Brad. “Mud On The Tires” celebrates the liberating feeling of off-roading. You really haven’t enjoyed your new truck until you’ve gotten it a little dirty. “Water” is a simply-titled tune that encompasses the wide range of ways that being in, on, or underneath water is more pleasurable than words can truly say. Although he doesn’t give it a whole lot of air time here, Paisley also has a deep spiritual side. We get “When I Get Where I’m Going”, his duet with Dolly Parton, on this concert set, but Paisley is always careful to include a hymn or spiritual song on each and every studio recording. If you haven’t seen Paisley in concert, you may not realize what a skilled guitarist he is. His songs, especially the fast ones, are filled with a lot more guitar licks in this live setting. Although you may not catch it just from listening to this recording, Paisley makes singing, strolling across the stage casually and country-shredding all looks so easy and coordinated. You’d almost believe this boy was born with a guitar in his hands. He performs the instrumental “Time Warp”, which focuses specifically on his band’s awe-worthy instrumental chops. However, this track really wasn’t a hit song, and probably should have been left off the package. Times are tough and concert tickets are expensive. Even so, if you only go to one country concert this year please make it a Paisley show. The way he incorporates video elements, for instance, makes him a cut above the rest when it comes to transforming the concert experience into something visual, as well as auditory. He’s also a fun and engaging host, and knows how to make each audience feel like it’s special. However, if you can’t make it out to a show in person, pick up this live release instead. It showcases a great performer doing what he does best.