Album Review – Eric Paslay’s Self-Titled Debut Album

Remember when I admitted when I was wrong about Jon Pardi? I’m about to admit this about another mainstream country artist. Both of these artists have taught me you can’t judge an artist by what they put on the radio and I’m sure not to do this anymore from here on out. I was wrong about Eric Paslay. When I first heard his single “Friday Night,” I was pretty dismissive. But I saw a few critics I respect give him solid album grades and I had to see why. After listening I know why now. However there are clear highs and lows throughout this album. Let’s take a look at the arrival of Paslay into country music.

The Best Songs on the Album

The song that is clearly the best on the album is “She Don’t Love You.” It’s a heartfelt and tender song about a guy realizing a girl doesn’t love him and she just wants to be with him because she’s lonely at the moment. His heart was falling for her, but his brain has made him realize that this is foolish. It has soft instrumentation that perfectly sets the right mood for the song. Paslay’s vocals are fantastic too. This song will be in the running for Country Perspective’s Song of the Year. The album closes out with another great song in “Deep As It Is Wide.” It’s an emotional song written solely by Paslay himself. These two songs demonstrate Paslay at his absolute best. “Like A Song” is a song that features some top-notch guitar play, as well as equally strong vocals. “Less Than Whole” is a song about experiencing failure and how you should seek forgiveness when you do wrong. The message is good and the instrumentation is strong again. It runs a little longer than I would like, but it’s still good nonetheless. One song that surprised me after listening to it numerous times is “Song About A Girl.” I expected it to be bro country, but it actually dismisses bro country tropes throughout the song. Yes, the lyrics are a tad bland. But it’s honest and straightforward. In a way you could view it as a subtle anti-bro country song. Bottom line: When Paslay is on his game with this album, he’s dead on.

The Worst Songs on the Album

But when Paslay is off, he’s way off. One of the first singles from this album is “Friday Night,” which was already recorded and released as a single by Lady Antebellum. I didn’t like the song then and I’m not much of a fan of Paslay’s version either even though it’s better. It’s just an average song constructed to get radio play. But then again it did it’s job to get attention toward him. Many new artists do this and I guess I can give a pass to Paslay for this bad song. The worst song on the album though is “Good With Wine.” It’s such a blatant laundry list country song and I really hope this isn’t Paslay’s next single. It’s a clear miss in my book and I hope Paslay stays away from these type of songs in future album releases.

The Rest of the Album

As far as the rest of the album goes, each of the songs are missing one or two things from being great songs instead of just good songs. “Country Side of Heaven” is a song that is well-intentioned and features good mandolin and guitar play, but I feel the lyrics are a little hokey. It reminds me too much of Justin Moore’s “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.” Another song that could have been better if it was written better is “Here Comes Love.” The lyrics are better in the torn love song “Never Really Wanted,” but once again I felt it could have been stronger in this department. It’s still a good song though. “Keep on Fallin'” flirts too much with bro country without being blatantly bro country.

Overall Thoughts

I don’t have any complaints as far as instrumentation and vocals go for this album. Every song featured the right instruments and the right background volume. It certainly didn’t suffer from being overproduced. I thought that Paslay sounded great on every song. The songwriting is what dragged at times on this album and hurt the overall quality of some songs. Paslay had a hand in writing each of these songs, but only the final one on the album “Deep As It Is Wide,” was solely written by him. Perhaps he should get new writers to help him on his next album because if this album had a little bit better songwriting it would be considered great in my eyes instead of just pretty good. Paslay still makes a solid debut though and is a great introduction to listeners. It’s one of the best albums in mainstream country music in 2014. I might come off as hypercritical of Paslay’s debut here, but that’s because I have high hopes for his future material. Paslay should be considered one of the good guys in mainstream country music and he has the potential to make fantastic country albums in the coming years. Mainstream country artists like Kacey Musgraves, Zac Brown Band, Jon Pardi and Eric Paslay give me enough hope that mainstream country music can be saved. If you hadn’t heard this album yet, I recommend giving it a listen.

Grade: 8/10

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