Love and nostalgia are strong emotions that can be stirred by the skilled songwriter in as little as a few words and strum of guitar. We learned Doug Paisley had a penchant for this in earlier albums such as 2010’s Constant Companion, a laid bare affair which helped Doug be recognised for the talented chap he is. Fast forward three years and here we are ready to take in his new album Strong Feelings, which promises to venture into a fuller sound, Doug devoting more time to getting the most out of the new tracks in a leap of faith and adventure.
Immediately noticeable is the expansive overall feeling compared to earlier material. Paisley must have been felt that a progression was needed to keep not only himself entertained, but realising that you can’t stand still in the music industry – that’s when people get forgotten. It works out pretty well for him, tracks such as Song My Love Can Sing make use of a variety of instruments creating a jaunty and memorable song, including a rarely heard Hammond organ solo. Drums dipping in and out make the track feel fresh and give it an overall different sound to the usual ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ style song.
What’s Up Is Down has a decent melody with fitting backing vocals provided by the talented Mary Margaret, Paisley sounding like a young Johnny Cash and pulling it off. The best thing about this track is the almost Jazzy piano, let free to buzz around whenever it wants.
And that’s where the album is at its strongest, little musical hooks or pieces of invention that tie it together and keep the listener interested. Unfortunately it doesn’t stay like this for the whole record, It’s not too late sparks with something meaningful, but ultimately fizzles out into cliché’s, whereas Old Times plays on itself a little too much, managing to be a little tired.
It’s only on a few occasions this happens however, and Our Love is a master class in stripped back folk, managing to be simple and effective, raw but ageless, and sweet and fulfilling all at the same time. The overall live sound of the album gives it a sense of freedom and shows Paisley having a good time creating something that you can tell he enjoyed doing. He may still be perfecting his fuller sound, but it’s a good sign of things to come and well worth a listen.