This Is Country Music is the eighth studio album by American country music artist Brad Paisley. The album was originally scheduled to be released April 19, but was pushed back to May 23, 2011 by recording label Arista Nashville.
Brad Paisley debuted the title track from the album on the 44th CMA Awards on November 10, 2010, and he received a standing ovation. This performance got Brad's fans excited for the release of his new album.
Brad Paisley wrote this album to pay tribute to various artists that have shaped his career. This includes Dick Dale for the song "Working on a Tan" and Ennio Morricone for the song "Eastwood". The majority of the songs were written or co-written by Brad Paisley, and are based on the themes of love, loss, hope, and heartache. The title track, This Is Country Music, starts off the album, and small verses of that song, that were not included in the original track, act as interludes between some of the songs. This ties the album to a common theme.
This Is Country Music debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200, and sold 153,000 copies in the first week of release. Keith Caulfield with Billboard magazine noted that Paisley was at a disadvantage releasing the album the same week as Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which was expected to sell up to one million copies. Cualfield stated, "With all this talk about Gaga, you've got to feel a little bad for country superstar Brad Paisley, whose This Is Country Music album will likely debut in the runner-up slot next week with maybe 150,000 copies sold. Paisley has yet to earn a No. 1 album -- after six top 10's, two of which hit No. 2. (Had his new album come a week earlier, perhaps he could have secured his first No. 1.)" As of November 23, 2011, the album has sold 561,000 copies in the US.
Upon its release, This Is Country Music received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 82, based on 11 reviews. This indicates "universal acclaim". Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly gave the release an 'A'. He stated that "the whole record plays like a best-of sampler — not just for Paisley, but for the history of the art form". Jody Rosen of The New York Times was in high praise of the album, saying "Mr. Paisley is once again preaching to his choir. It’s a bright, brisk record, packed with the polished country-pop songs that Mr. Paisley’s devotees have come to expect. It’s a study in the politics of 21st-century Nashville stardom, the delicate maneuvering that a performer like Mr. Paisley must do to keep his pews filled. But listen closely and you hear some surprises — and a more expansive definition of country music than the album’s title track at first suggests". In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau complimented Paisley's songcraft as "undiminished [...] he remains the smartest and nicest guy in his world", and gave the album an A- rating. indicating "the kind of garden-variety good record that is the great luxury of musical micromarketing and overproduction". Robert Silva of About.com gave the album four stars out of five and wrote that it "aims to cover all its musical bases", which is done with some "clever songwriting". In USA Today, Brian Mansfield gave it a positive review, and evoked how Paisley "set[s] a high standard" for himself, which the album is "steeped in the past and looking for ways to grow", and told "that it lives up to its title as well as any album in recent memory."
Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine called the album less satisfying than Paisley's previous albums, saying the album "threatens to become a great country album instead of an album simply about great country music. That's a distinction Paisley has gotten right more often than not over the course of his career [...] But even when the album isn't up to Paisley's typical standards, This Is Country Music is still an interesting, ambitious project from a man who need not apologize for the things he does awfully well." Giving it four stars out of five, Jessica Phillips of Country Weekly magazine praised the album's "traditional" sound and variety of songs. She also thought that the album's more comedic songs provided a "humorous equilibrium[…]without being relentlessly clever."Rolling Stone critic Will Hermes gave the album a 3½ star rating. Hermes thought the album "embraces all of what country music is today — its soul, its vivid storytelling, and, yes, its genre clichés. The lead singles, uncharacteristically, are ads more than songs; Elsewhere, the greatest country artist of his generation keeps it fresh, funny and guitar-heroic". Stuart Munro of The Boston Globe gave it a favorable review, saying "'This Is Country Music' encapsulates Paisley’s status as a premier upholder of traditional country within a contemporary framework, and the 15 songs that follow confirm that status; The sentiment here isn’t prescriptive but descriptive, in the self-referential manner that frequents today’s country [...] Yes, this is country music". At The Guardian, Angus Batey of The Guardian said that Paisley "has fun with country's cliches, but still treats the genre seriously", which is why "he remains the Nashville mainstream's most potent ambassador."
Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic gave it a favorable review. Erelwine stated that "Paisley narrows his definition of what constitutes modern country on his seventh collection of new songs [..] here’s where Paisley’s skills as a craftsman come into play. Always a traditionalist, he builds a song with care but is keenly aware that he’s living in 2011, not 1965". Emily Yahr of The Washington Post gave the release a favorable review, saying "While it’s an enjoyable listen, there are no real surprises — at this point, Paisley knows what works. And by the time the western actor shows up to guest-whistle his way through an instrumental track appropriately called “Eastwood,” it’s clear that Paisley has tackled so many topics and sounds that he thinks country music is . . . well, pretty much whatever you want it to be". Dan MacIntosh of Roughstock gave the album a four star rating. He believes that "buying new music can sometimes be a gamble. However, Brad Paisley is the closest artist to a sure thing that you’ll likely find. This is country music – at its best". Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times gave it a 2½ out of 4 star rating, calling a lot of the material "overworked". Lewis explained that "[Brad's] skills as a songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire and distinctively expressive singer are obvious at many turns on his latest album. But on this outing Paisley doesn’t move the musical conversation forward the way he’s done in several previous albums". Deborah Evans Price of Billboard called the album "musically diverse" and commented by saying that "vocally, Paisley has never sounded better, and the ace guitar player struts his stuff throughout, skillfully complementing the mood and timbre of each tune. Country music's most talented young ambassador has delivered the ultimate love letter to his art form with This is Country Music".