The talented troubadour's fifth album, and first since 2018's Starter Home, offers no big surprises—just more first-rate folk and country songs, many of which sound like they're destined to join such other Paisley classics as “Drinking With a Friend” or "No One But You." But consistency is a virtue worth celebrating. And Paisley's intimate songwriting, warm voice and crisp guitar work is never anything less than exceptional. He's like a modern-day Kristofferson or Lightfoot who keeps hitting it out of the park.
This time around, Paisley works with Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas), who produces and provides additional guitar, as well as sterling side players including drummer Don Kerr, guitarist Christine Bougie and backup singer Felicity Williams, who harmonizes with the voice of a true angel. The songs here cover his usual themes of bitter breakups, wistful reflections and hard-earned doubts. But that melancholy is often tempered with wisdom, which makes the message more hopeful than despondent. Toe-tappers like “If I Wanted To” and “Make It a Double,” full of twang, are firmly in a country vein, while the Spanish-tinged “Almost” and the cascading “Holy Roller” are folky gems. Paisley sings about bygone places and past relationships “crumbling down” in “Old Hometown” and “Rewrite History,” in which trades stark confessions with Williams.
One song sums up Paisley's signature outlook: the pedal-steel laced “Almost,” in which he sings: “Almost reached the top of the mountain/Almost sailed across the sea/Almost was somebody to someone/Who loved me.” If you haven't yet discovered Doug Paisley, Say What You Like is a great starting point. If you already have, you won't be disappointed by his latest collection of songs. Paisley’s kind of sadness, as always, is a beautiful thing.
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