Though he's developed a healthy sideline over the last few years co-hosting the Country Music Assn. Awards with
So far, so good, right?
One of country music's smartest, most charismatic stars, Paisley improves any awards show on which he appears -- and with performances such as
But if Paisley's signature smirk provided a welcome spark, the new single he performed was a less happy addition.
Titled "River Bank," the tune is either a razor-sharp send-up of bro-country cliché -- or a pathetic embodiment of the same from a songwriter capable of far, far more.
"We got an inner tube, we got a trailer hitch / We're near the river and far from rich," Paisley sings over an appealingly percussive twang-funk groove, "But we have got each other and gas in the tank / We're laughing all the way to the river bank."
Given the general excellence of Paisley's catalog -- and his proven flair for satire -- I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here.
But "River Bank" -- don't forget -- comes only a year after the "Accidental Racist" kerfluffle, which means the single is likely an attempt to strengthen his base in the run-up to a new album.
I've got no problem with that idea, a familiar Paisley gambit. "This Is Country Music," and "Old
"In my adventurousness, I'm like the ocean," Paisley told me in 2012. "I'll venture onto the shore a certain amount, then go back and venture out a little further with the next wave."
But "This Is Country Music" and "Old Alabama" -- the latter a lyrical fake-out featuring a guest appearance by the veteran country band Alabama -- were kind of brilliant, and not in spite of their traditionalism but because of it.
"River Bank," as catchy as it is, feels pretty shallow by comparison -- all flight, no bite. Listen below and decide for yourself.