By Soda Canter
While the album overall never finds steady footing, Paisley isn’t capable of delivering less-than-quality lyrics even if the end results, pointedly the title track, feel unfinished.
1. Say What You Like
2. Sometimes It's So Easy
3. Wide Open Plain
4. Rewrite History
6. If I Wanted To
7. I Wanted It Too Much
8. Make It A Double
9. You Turn My Life Around
10. Holy Roller
11. Old Hometown
Over the course of fifteen years, Canadian alternative country artist Doug Paisley has earned critical acclaim for his steadfast approach in delivering poignant songs of self-reflection. Over time, Paisley has built a cohesive catalog that has consistently focused on displaying the beauty found in life’s pure and often fragile moments.
On Say What You Like, his first album since 2018’s revered Starter Home, Paisley doesn’t stray far from this known formula; creating some of his most interesting work to date when he chooses to step off the beaten path.
This welcome diversion is credited in great part to Afie Jurvanen, best known as recording artist BAHAMAS, who serves as producer for the 11-song record. Jurvanen guides with an experimental touch, bringing in fresh tones, new voices and creative layers that add further depth to Paisley’s profound lyrics. When Paisley fully invests in this direction, the results are positively irresistible, finding him sounding joyfully free and creatively centered.
The tenderly rendered ‘Rewrite History’ is a thoughtful rumination on the complexities of relationships, made even more impactful with the ethereal presence of Toronto-based recording artist Felicity Williams. ‘If I Wanted To’ is where Paisley starts to truly hit his stride, delivering vibrant vocals that dance in the atmosphere long after the track has ended.
As an artist, Paisley has always been aptly able to wear many hats, but with the sweeping over the plains of ‘I Wanted It Too Much’ and the Don Williams-esque ‘Make It a Double’, it shows he’s right at home with simply a Stetson. While album closer ‘Old Hometown’ is lyrically the strongest of the set, it’s the superb mid-tempo production that truly cements the melancholic longing for friendships and spaces that have changed over time.
The rest of the collection never quite finds the sonic cohesion of Starter Home. This is likely due to being pieced together from over 250 songs that Paisley has written over the last decade.
While the album overall never finds steady footing, Paisley isn’t capable of delivering less-than-quality lyrics even if the end results, pointedly the title track, feel unfinished. Above all, it’s evident that he’s a songwriter’s songwriter; an artist who is deeply committed to his craft. That’s always easy to like.
7 / 10.
Doug Paisley's 2023 album, Say What You Like, is released March 17th via Outside Music.
For a full list of 2023 country albums and their release dates, see below: