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Not a Dull Moment with Paisley at Christmas
on October 13, 2006
Prime Cuts: Penguin, James Penguin, Santa Looked A lot Like Daddy, I'll Be Home for Christmas
Santa's secret spies, confronting Christmas addictive withdrawals, and daddy playing dress-ups: these are sacred totems associated with the yuletide for Brad Paisley. While many a Christmas CD offers punctilious readings of traditional carols stuck in a mire of saccharine sentimentality, Paisley's debut holiday effort shows personality. Ingenuity and his ingrained humor get the upper hand as this country superstar revels in the frolicsome candor of the festive season. However, not all is frivolous fun, on certain tracks Paisley does essay the lofty message of Christmas and its sentiments via some of most timely formidable carols of yore performed with a romantic valor and thoughtful impeccability. Though this is a seasonal detour, stylistically "A Brad Paisley Christmas" does not sidestep too far away from Paisley's typical country outings. Just as his albums has never been monolithic; a bit of everything represented on this CD: from romantic lush ballads, to spitfire honk tonk to revved up rock to an instrumental as well as a few nods to Paisley's comical side.
The more interesting tracks here are the originals, of which there are four. Paisley ups the ante on his narrative skills on the jovial narrative about Santa's secret spy that goes by the moniker "Penguin, James Penguin." Told with a tickle of cheekiness, "Penguin, James Penguin" ought to add Christmas cheer to kids as well as bring a seasonal smile to adults. Much less colorful is the laconic "364 Days to Go" a wry cynical bluesy-ballad about the obsessive entanglements of the holidays. Sharing the microphone again with the Paisley-created the Kung Pao Buckaroos -- otherwise known as Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones, and Bill Anderson -"Kung Pao Holidays" is a satire of the notion of "political correctness" basked by a comedic sonic veneer. On a much sober and traditional tenor, "Born on Christmas Day" features Paisley when he was 13 years old trading verses with himself (towards the end) on a self-penned Southern-Gospel-like ballad detailing the story of Christ's birth.
Even when Paisley delves into the traditional canon of yuletide favorites, he is not content to offer a straight reading. Listen especially to the lyrical changes to "Santa Looked A Lot like Daddy" for his personal augmentation that brings out another humorous dimension. While on "I'll Be Home For Christmas," co-producer Frank Rogers and Paisley himself, went all the way to provide a dreamy string-laden backing, thus creating one of the most romantic renditions since Tony Bennett's rendition. On the other hand, the reverent singing of "Silent Night" is a tad on the dull side. This is only redeemed by "Away in a Manger" which receives a revved up honky tonk treatment. Though guitar accolades may find much to celebrate over the instrumental "Jingle Bells," it does nothing to the musically illiterate.
As far as Christmas CDs go, "Brad Paisley's Christmas" strikes a balance between the season's sacred as well as its more jovial side. Yet most winsome is that Paisley's at home in both turfs. Whether he delves into the spiritual message of the importance of Christ's birth or just cracking jokes with the Kung Pao Buckaroos over appropriate language in holiday tunes, Paisley sounds at ease. If there's a pickle to pick, it's that the album has too few tracks. Nevertheless, with Paisley displaying his colorful personality throughout the CD, there's not a dull moment during Brad Paisley's Christmas.