Brad Paisley's fourth album maybe his most impressive effort—vigorous, witty and as brawny as he's likely to get. Paisley even redeems his occasionally arch sense of humor with his hit "Alcohol," a clever tune written from the point of view of beer, wine, whiskey, rum, et al: "And since the day I left Milwaukee, Lynchburg and Bordeaux, France/ Been making the bars lots of big money/ And helping white people dance." Elsewhere, "Waitin' on a Woman" aptly sums up an unfavorite male pastime. Meanwhile, "Out in the Parkin' Lot" gives Paisley a chance to bond with ubiquitous guest singer Alan Jackson, and "The Uncloudy Day" is a good example of this country artist's justifiably celebrated affinity for gospel material.
While Paisley's image needed some beefing up though, this disc can be macho to a fault. "You Need a Man Around Here" ought to light up feminists from Nashville to New York City, and the crass "Cornography," with its reference to Dolly Parton's "38s," is off by more than a couple of inches. And inviting George Jones to sing on "Cornography" begs invidious comparisons between the authenticity of Jones's style and the more mechanical aspects of Paisley's singing. He's better off when Parton lends her ethereal voice to another gospel-flavored track, "When I Get Where I'm Going." Playing his own lively guitar throughout, Paisley powers up the sound a fair amount, with some help from master axman James Burton. Although Paisley continues to sing out of the corner of his mouth, little by little he's getting better. This is time well spent.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Alcohol"
Roc-A-Fella Records Presents...Teairra Marí
At the beginning of this CD, Jay-Z introduces Teairra (pronounced "Tiara") Marí as the "Princess of the Roc," referring to his Roc-A-Fella Records, which signed the 17-year-old singer. And with the street grit she brings to her hip-hop soul debut, the Detroit native shows that she can hold her own with the thugged-out rappers on the label. "Don't let my cute face fool ya," Marí warns on "No Daddy," a thumping anthem for "all of my girls from a broken home." Marí's rough edges, though, are softened with her sweet and sexy vocals on tracks like "Make Her Feel Good," bringing to mind a younger Beyoncé. Unfortunately, some songs, such as "Stay in Ya Lane," sound like Beyoncé hand-me-downs. Marí still has a ways to go if she is to steal Jay-Z's girlfriend's crown.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "No Daddy"
The timing of Bow Wow's hit single "Let Me Hold You" couldn't have been better. The hip-hop slow jam, which was recorded before Luther Vandross's death last month, serves as a fitting testament to the impact of the late soul legend by sampling his classic version of "If Only for One Night," which came out before Bow Wow, 18, was even born. Similarly, "Like You," his creamy duet with Ciara, achieves an old-meets-new-school vibe by reworking New Edition's "I'm Leaving You Again." With their more mature style, these songs help Bow Wow expand his audience beyond the kiddies. But the rapper keeps one foot in the playground on tracks like "Is That You (P.Y.T.)," on which he's on the prowl for a "pretty young thing," and the boasting "B.O.W" He's still not quite ready to run with the big dogs.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Let Me Hold You"