Fastest guitar in the West

Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 1:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 1:26 p.m.

Brad Paisley's prowess as a guitarist runs deep: he's a front-porch picker of the first magnitude, a musician who received his first guitar at age 8 and cut his live-performance teeth playing for church audiences by age 10.


Brad Paisley

What: Country star performs with Jewel and Chuck Wicks
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: O'Connell
Center, UF campus
Tickets: $29.75 and $46, Ticketmaster or University Box Office (392-1653)

The singer/guitarist, who performs tonight at the O'Connell Center with Jewel and Chuck Wicks, was so good that his first band had him playing along with middle-aged support musicians and writing songs by age 12.

As a teenage country slinger, he opened shows for such performers as Roy Clark (also known for his guitar playing), The Judds and Little Jimmy Dickens.

Earlier performances of his current "Paisley Party" tour have had him living up to expectations: whizzing through the guitar into "Mr. Policeman" and wowwing fans on the aptly named instrumental "Throttleneck."

While the singer has scored a remarkable 36 Top 40 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart, and his appealing vocals have won him the Academy of Country Music's Top Male Vocalist award for the past two years including last year when he also received the Male Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association Paisley's guitar credentials remain as airtight as his knack for writing and recording dependable hits.

All of that may explain why his forthcoming new album, "Play," set for release on Nov. 4, is being billed as a heavy instrumental outing, one teaming the picker with such guitarist icons as B.B. King and musical legends as the late Buck Owens.

Releasing the album on Election Day may be a hint that this Paisley album, which comes on the heels of last year's million-selling, No. 1 hit platter, "5th Gear," is going to be different.

"When we settled on Election Day for the release of the album, we realized we're taking a bit of a chance, but we're taking a chance with this record anyway, so why not?" Paisley told Billboard magazine.

"I think what has surprised people over the years about some of the things I've done probably could be credited to this instrument as much as anything, allowing me to open up my mind and go (to) some places unexpected," said Paisley, who turns 36 on Oct. 28.

One tune on the album, "More Than Just This Song," which Paisley co-wrote and sings with Steve Wariner, salutes one of his guitar heroes, Chet Atkins, and also honors the player who taught the young Paisley how to play guitar as a kid, Hank Goddard.

"I studied with him, and he let me in his band when I was a teenager," Paisley said. "On the record, Steve plays one of Chet's guitars, and I had Hank's old Gibson. Each of us tried to play not like ourselves but like our mentors."

Longtime fans of Paisley's vocal talents need not feel shortchanged, however: "Play" also features several vocal duets including "Start a Band," which teams the singer/guitarist with Keith Urban.

And that underscores the point that while Paisley the musician may be considered one of the fastest guitarists in the West, he's also a crowd-pleasing performer who believes in leaving the accessibility door to fans in general wide open.

"The last thing people want to hear is stuff that you have to have a music degree to enjoy," he said. "We made this record a little more relatable and commercial than expected."

Bill Dean can be reached at 374-5039 or

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