I was never much for Mixtapes. My friends had tapes for driving, for being at the beach, for the script they were writing and different ones for the different girls they were dating.
They still do the same with their iPod Playlists or spend a lot of time thumbing the "Shuffle" button. But I've always been monogamous to one album at a time -- at least for one summer.
I think it all started with the Beatles "Rubber Soul" which just so perfectly fit me and the summer with which it coincided. Not every summer since has seen the crowning of a new champion.
It's tough to find a record that has something for driving with the windows open, lolling on the beach and slow dancing by the fire. And in addition to all that, the perfect summer album needs tunes for those moments when you try to put the last year in perspective or get inspired for what you want to do in the months coming up.
That's why most of my buddies had mixtapes. But I've always let some artist do the work of song selection and I've found that singling out one who seems to touch on all my needs is far more fulfilling. In some ways, I think it also leads you to appreciating an artist and their talents even more.
Over the years my summer albums have included "The Lovin' Spoonful", "The Doors", "Rush", "Springsteen", "Wilco", "Shaggy" and "The Jayhawks" (on tour across Canada this summer -- don't miss 'em).
Four years back I blogged about selecting Miranda Lambert's magnificent album "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" as the perfect summer record and look how well that worked out for her -- multiple gold and platinum albums, a fist full of country music awards and married to country star cutie-pie Blake Shelton.
So take my word that this summer's selection is well-worth the listen.
Brad Paisley's "This is Country Music" is as close to a concept album as Country music gets. Although I don't know for certain, I think it was inspired by Paisley's read of the room in which he received one of his several "Male Vocalist of the Year" awards. I'm not sure which one because this guy gets handed trophies so often he's kind of Tom Hanks with a hat.
After one of those shows, Paisley wrote:
"I am so proud to do this for a living. See, country music is unique. It is brave. It is not afraid to deal head on with subjects like disease, death, religion, drinking, family or anything else that qualifies as life. It isn't above its fans. It is about them. It is the soundtrack to my life, and probably yours. As its recording artists, we are given the dog-tags from family members of fans who die in battle for our country. We are there in song at the most impactful moments of our fans' lives. We are loved unconditionally, and we are given loyalty beyond what we deserve. This is country music."
It also feels like an album that took a long time to put together. Paisley actually debuted the title song at 2010's CMA broadcast -- yet the final version only hit store shelves this week coinciding with the release of the single "Old Alabama" which he sang live at last month's Academy of Country Music Awards, joined onstage by the historic band referred to in the lyrics.
That length of time might have been necessary to allow Paisley to share vocals with such artists as Carrie Underwood, Don Henley, Blake Shelton and Clint Eastwood among the many more. Or it might've just taken that long to figure out which well-known riffs, vocal inflections or lyrical stylings would best conjure some of the greatest moments in Country Music.
I guess in a lot of ways, this is Brad Paisley's own personal Mixtape.
But even if you're not sufficiently countrified to appreciate all the nuances, it's a great Summer album. Brian Wilson would be envious of the beach/top down potential of "Workin' On A Tan" or "Be The Lake". There's fun stuff like "Camouflage" and "Don't Drink The Water" and more than a little slow-dance gold in "New Favorite Memory" and "Love Her Like She's Leaving".
My current favorites are -- "A Man Don't Have To Die" which says more about the current state of the economy, religion and political discourse than you'll get from all sides of the media while also including lyrics like:
"There's a place out by the, airport where the girls dance just for you. But all you are is drunk and broke and lonely when they're through."
And then there's "Toothbrush" a song not only about the simple things, but exhibiting how easy it is to do product placement without anybody hardly noticing while giving your sponsor a reason to swell with pride.
I'm going to give you a double dose of "This is Country Music" here. Partly because I wish I could share the whole thing and mostly to exhibit the range of what's included.
Here's Brad Paisley performing the title song from the 2010 CMA Award Show and the new single from April's Academy of Country Music Awards.
Think about making it your Summer album too. And Enjoy Your Sunday.