Time Well Wasted Review - New York Times

Mainstream country doesn't have many stars like Brad Paisley: a distinctive singer who writes his own songs and happens to be a serious lead guitar picker, too. Mr. Paisley, who is from West Virginia, is one of country's many nice guys in cowboy hats, and he spends most of his fourth album, ''Time Well Wasted'' (Arista Nashville), singing about suburban lives spent in malls and pickup trucks, extolling fidelity and saying sweet things to the woman in his life. As usual, Mr. Paisley dutifully covers the country bases: love, drinking and piety (though he has to outsource the songwriting for the one about heaven). What keeps him from getting too corny are his flying fingers and his wit, which has helped make his albums million-sellers. Stars like Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson sing along with him on this new album. Like Mr. Jackson, his role model, Mr. Paisley is steeped in old-fashioned country. Yet he and his producer, Frank Rogers, don't worry about traditionalism versus modernity. Songs that could have turned into power ballads are fitted out instead with fiddle, pedal steel guitar and his own twangy solos. Then he harks back to honky-tonk while singing about his laptop computer or his Visa card. As a songwriter, Mr. Paisley is more a list maker than a storyteller. He writes verses full of wry variations on the message in the chorus. ''To the waiter at the restaurant, you're just another tip/ to the guy at the ice-cream shop, you're just another dip,'' he sings. ''But to me, baby you are the world.'' He often comes up with wry twists on old situations; in ''Flowers,'' he sings about sending dozens of roses to apologize to his ex, and he urges her to help ''stop the senseless killing'' of flowers ''cut down in the prime of their lives.'' Most of the time, he's as kindly as can be, praising the woman who's ''everything to me'' and thinking fondly of growing old together. In ''Waiting on a Woman,'' an older man is content that the chronically late woman he loves will probably outlive him. In the pristine ''Rainin' You,'' the production is so restrained that Mr. Paisley sounds closer to Chris Isaak than to Tim McGraw. But his best songs are the ones that show some mischief. On this album, he's come up with ''Alcohol,'' a sway-along waltz in which (like Metallica singing about addiction in ''Master of Puppets'') he speaks from the point of view of alcohol itself, as both medicine and poison, and takes pride in ''helpin' white people dance.'' In ''You Need a Man Around Here,'' a honky-tonk shuffle that slips in a futuristic guitar effect, he visits a single woman and realizes, ''I haven't been in a room this clean since they took my appendix out.'' And in ''I'll Take You Back,'' riding a freight-train rhythm and a bluesy guitar lick, the bitterly vengeful singer imagines a reconciliation only when ''I get amnesia and forget the things you said/ I lose my better judgment and I take up smokin' crack.'' Mr. Paisley is no rebel. The quirkiest thing he does on the album is to tack on some bonus tracks of barely amusing double-entendre comedy. But he's funnier, and wiser, when he tucks his sense of humor into his songs.