John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June, walked into Brad Paisley’s studio house and handed him the words to his father’s poem Gold All Over the Ground. Paisley, who had never seen it before, sat down with his guitar and started singing.
“It felt just as if my father was alive as he ever was,” Cash said of watching Paisley instantly turn the poem into a touching ballad of adoration. “Brad connected deeply. Sometimes when music is that powerful, it has a life of its own, and it’s going to be heard. It was magical.”
Gold All Over the Ground carries a Paisley/Cash writer credit and is situated more than halfway through Paisley’s new album Love and War that will be in stores Friday. Paisley has bolstered the traditional tenets of country music as much or more than anyone of his generation. When country music is as pop as it has ever been, Paisley is poised to release one of his most country albums to date — and perhaps his best.
Cash remembered that the music and melody for Gold All Over the Ground tumbled from Paisley’s guitar in three-and-a-half minutes. He captured the audio on his cellphone, and when he and Paisley went into the studio to record the track a few weeks later, it mirrored Paisley’s spontaneous creation.
“I tried to write this song the same way I would as if it were (Johnny Cash) himself walking into a room saying, ‘Here’s a song idea. What do you think?’ ” Paisley said, his white cowboy hat swapped for a ball cap while lounging on the couch in his home recording studio. “It felt very spiritual to do ... it felt like Johnny was there.”
Paisley teamed with Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson for the aching follow-up Dying to See Her. Alone, the songs are heartbreakingly beautiful — back to back, they are a knockout punch packed with the love, pain and storytelling that are hallmarks of the genre.
When he came up with the concept for Dying to See Her, Paisley knew it was for him to write with Anderson. Lyrics include: "She was his reason for living, she was his rock and his best friend. They’ll be reunited in heaven, ‘cause he’s dying to see her again." When Paisley shared the concept with his 79-year-old friend, Anderson’s reaction was immediate — Dying to See Her was the story of his parents. His father had a bench by his mother’s grave where he would sit and cry.
There are many facets of the album — 16 songs, all of which Paisley co-wrote, including the reprise of the upbeat opening track Heaven South. Today, the album’s first single, was the singer’s 24th No. 1 hit. Paisley’s trademark humor is on point with selfie#theinternetisforever. His love of wordplay takes over with One Beer Can. Last Time for Everything, Paisley’s current single, is thick with nostalgia and love for his family: “Getting woke up at 5 a.m. to see if Santa came. There’s a last time for everything.”
“Brad (is) at this nexus of country music where he is able to go out there and sing about things that are very deep but could be very commercial,” said Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Randy Goodman. “He’s always been able to poke fun at the culture, hold a mirror up to us and say, ‘Isn’t this absurd?’ ”
The number of collaborations on the album — Anderson, Mick Jagger, John Fogerty and Timbaland — prompted Paisley to toy with the idea of making it a legends or collaborations project. But he realized what he had was a cohesive package, and he needed every song. This time his message was simple: Turn off the news, and tune into life.