REVIEW: ERIC PASLAY – EVEN IF IT BREAKS YOUR BAREFOOT FRIDAY NIGHT (2022)

How to avoid a “This Left Feels Right” moment, I suppose, should always be the thing when doing this re-imagining type album.

That was the name of the Bon Jovi abomination that surely represents the nadir of these things. To be fair, there’s been a couple of good ones. The Monster Magnet ones for example, saw the New Jersey metal band really go mad and take the tracks into different places.

It’s doubtful that Monster Magnet was in the forefront of Eric Paslay’s thoughts when he decided to do “Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night”, but the concept is in the same ball park.

Essentially, Paslay, in addition to his couple of records, has written a load of massive hits. Here he takes nine of them and redoes them (the title is an amalgamation of some of the names) and that’s about it, really.

The opener “High Class” might be the best of them. Gone is the drum machine and the dance flavours – in its place is a blues thing, albeit it retains the funkiness and the brilliant “heard he taught Timberlake” line.

That alone makes Eric Paslay likeable. He doesn’t take it too seriously, but he can knock out a hook for fun and to order it seems.

As is evidenced by “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”. The first number one, when Jake Owen took it to the top of the charts. On Spotify there’s a live version with Paslay when he explains that it “changed my life”. His version, here, is a little poppier, but it’s a fabulous song.

“The Driver” a 2015 smash for Charles Kelley was written by Paslay too and here, in honesty, he tops it. There’s a maudlin quality. The original of “Friday Night” has received just the 78 million streams. This one is less raw. More blue collar, but no less fun.

“Rewind”, you sense, is the sort of thing this was invented for, Rascal Flatts recorded it in 2014, but Paslay turns it in to a solid gold, gold record again. “Song About A Girl” has naturally evolved since 2014, and the older, wiser Paslay makes it sound more mature.

“Even If It Breaks Your Heart”, is the one I knew before I knew Paslay. I am a massive Will Hoge fan (he co-writes it and performed it) but this version has a wonderful guitar line to take it somewhere else.

“Angel Eyes” – written by Paslay and performed by Love And Theft  – could have been comfortably on “Tunnel Of Love” in this form, or performed by Tom Petty if you choose.

The nine track album (Paslay calls it an EP on his website, but if its longer than Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” it’s an album on this website) is his debut record’s other single “She Don’t Love You” – now a tender piano ballad it suits the track.

The same is true of all of it, actually. The song is respected but not copied and it adds to the legacy of the artist, unlike that awful Bon Jovi monstrosity. In truth, these would – in other eras – have made for mighty b-sides, but these days they need to be a collection, and they deserve to be out there somewhere.

What “Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night” does prove beyond all doubt, though, is that Eric Paslay is a brilliant songwriter.

Rating 8/10