Five years ago, when the 805 was rocked by the Montecito debris flow, Santa Barbara experienced something of a Paisley season. That is, Brad Paisley. Country superstar, incredibly good Telecaster guitar picker and part-time Montecitan, with family in tow. Paisley headlined a benefit concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, with a bonus night at a very sold-out SOHO the following night, for fun and charity.
This comes after she performed at the Christmas fundraising marathon for venerable local charity Unity Shoppe. When Paisley returns to the Bowl on Sunday, May 21, his charitable instincts are back. The Unity Shoppe is the beneficiary. Partly inspired by the nonprofit’s example, Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, helped found The Store, a free, referral-based grocery store in Nashville.
After bursting onto the scene with his 1999 album Who needs pictures?, Paisley has compiled an extensive list of top hits, awards and accolades. When it comes to guest-star partnerships, Paisley has an unusually strong record. Five years ago he pulled an impromptu song onstage with fellow Montecitan Ellen DeGeneres at the Bowl in Santa Barbara and had longtime friend and guitar pickup guru Seymour Duncan accompany him throughout his SRO SOhO set.
Alison Krauss accompanies him in duet style on his moving ballad “Whiskey Lullaby” and he has collaborated musically with George Jones and Dolly Parton. Mick Jagger accompanied him on the tune “Drive of Shame” from his 2017 album. love and war. Paisley’s latest release is Same Here, a first single from the forthcoming album son of the mountainsis a pacifist anthem featuring none other than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a spoken-word segment. “We fight for our children, our dreams,” says Selenskyj. “In many things we are really the same.”
There’s a lot to admire about Paisley, from his affable singing skills to a songbook that ranges from romance to comedic twists and songs about drinking – pros and cons. If “Whiskey Lullaby” is a sad lament about binge drinking, his song “Alcohol” playfully plays the party card. In an interview I did with Paisley years ago, he said, “My goal was to make this song entirely observational and impartial. However, I would say that it ended up tipping slightly in the drink’s favor, including the fact that most of the situations are funny to people. The main thing I wanted was to draw pictures that people would identify with.”
And for fans of hot guitar picking, Paisley’s playing can top the charts for technical daring and wild inventive flights. As for the axe, he’s an ardent believer in country music’s classic old-school tool, the Fender Telecaster Master.
“I love the Telecaster,” he said. “It’s a man’s guitar. No whammy bar; no pretty, trendy settings; just a piece of wood that looks like a cutting board and a bolted on neck. My heroes are all you mentioned plus a few more. I love the way an electric guitar can cry, bark, laugh, be defiant and scream, all like a singer. It’s always fun to see what I can achieve with my device.”
He’s a real guitar hero and a sensitive, funny and charitable guy to boot.