Paul Overstreet cowrote classic wedding songs like “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “When You Say Nothing At All.” A string of wholesome smash hits made him a respected, viable commercial songwriter… and, as time wore on, the boring Family Values Guy. As early as 1994, All Music’s Dan Cooper noted that he seemed
a bit too obsessed with convincing everybody that he’s a good Christian man who just can’t wait to get home to his wife. There’s more to life – and music – than family values, no matter how you define them.
Perhaps in response to this criticism, Paul Overstreet’s latest CD is a collection of live-show favorites that puts his humor on full display. Edgier? You bet. His website advises: Warning: Adult Content. I don’t know that the disclaimer is necessary – we’re nowhere near Marilyn Manson territory here – but point taken. Compared to the other music he has released, this is something a bit different.
One of the standout tracks is “Takes a Whole Lot of Liquor to Like Her,” in which the speaker finds the perfect solution to the problem of an overbearing wife:
She wants to tell me where to go, tell me what to do
Tell me what to eat and how loud I can chew
She even wants to tell me what thoughts I oughta think
It used to drive me crazy ‘til it drove me to drink
Elsewhere, things are often not what they initially seem.
“She Ain’t At Home on the Range” moves at the slow lope of an old Western tune, but isn’t about that kind of range. Similarly, “I Think She Only Loves Me for My Willie” isn’t about that kind of willy. [Kevin Fowler fans can see this one coming…] The speaker of “If You Want My Love” promises that appearances don’t matter (“you ain’t gotta be pretty, darlin’, if you want my love…”), but then reveals that maybe they do (“… but it sure wouldn’t hurt if you was”).
He even pulls off the downright shocking feat of making “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” likable again. His secret: he plays the song, which he co-wrote, for laughs. As it turns out, stripped of the macho posturing and apparent earnestness of Chesney’s version, it makes for an enjoyable and humorous little number. [Speaking of previously recorded songs, “That’s All I’ve Got to Say About That” appeared on the 2005 major label rerelease of Blaine Larsen’s debut.]
Throughout, Overstreet proves himself a capable and agile vocalist. Sharp songwriting and loose, spirited performances combine to bring us one of the best collections of 2007. If this is the new Paul Overstreet, I can’t wait for his next release.
Listen up: “She Looks So Good In Black” moves along at a fast, rolling tempo and sounds to me like a potential hit for anyone adventurous enough to cut it.