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Brad Paisley, ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ – Song Review

Southern Comfort Zone
Arista Nashville

Brad Paisley‘s new single ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ is another socially important song, joining previous hits like ‘Welcome to the Future’ and ‘This Is Country Music.’ The singer’s voice carries more weight in 2012 than it did in 2008 or 2004, and one senses that he’s aware of his influence. This song recorded by someone like Hank Williams Jr. or Toby Keith would be labeled as pretentious or preachy, but Paisley’s understated delivery (combined with a lovable personality) allows him to pack the punch he’s been working toward.

One needn’t look further than the church choir that opens and closes ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ to recognize the importance which Paisley places in this lyric. It’s a story of appreciating home after being away to other parts of the world.

Dixieland, I hope you understand / When I miss my Tennessee home / And I’ve been away way too long / I can’t see this world unless I go / Outside my southern comfort zone,” he sings during the chorus.

Early on, it sounds like Paisley may have written another defense of the country music genre — and by extension, the southern lifestyle — but his purpose becomes more clear toward the climax of the 4-and-a-half-minute-long cut that stretches to an eye-popping 5:20 for the upcoming album.

I have walked the streets of Rome / I have been to foreign lands / I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand / I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night / I have kissed a west coast girl underneath the northern lights,” Paisley sings.

As a songwriter, Paisley and frequent collaborators Kelley Lovelace and Chris DuBois are as sharp as ever. The trio work in references to southern staples while painting a picture bright enough for country fans of all origins to appreciate. “You have fed me, you have saved me, Billy Graham and Martha White,” Paisley sings, referring to the preacher and baking mix company that’s sponsored the Grand Ole Opry for decades.

The success of Buddy Jewell’s ‘Sweet Southern Comfort’ in 2003 should leave no doubt to this single’s potential for mass appeal. It’s the production that will determine one’s opinion of the song. Early drops of Jeff Foxworthy, ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and NASCAR are cute, but the overall weight of the song is imposing.

At times in recent years it’s felt like Paisley is trying to cut a song as important to the south as John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ He’s as honest and sincere of a country singer as we have, but much like a high school boy looking to score a date with the homecoming queen, he cold benefit from holding back just a little.

Paisley’s album is expected in April of 2013. ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ will hit digital retailers on October 2.

4 Stars

Listen to Brad Paisley, ‘Southern Comfort Zone’

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