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article imageReview: Brad Paisley continues the momentum with his brilliant new album

By Adrian Peel     Apr 12, 2013 in Entertainment
The country superstar, known for his imaginative songwriting and frenetic guitar playing, released his latest long-playing effort, 'Wheelhouse', on April the 9th via Arista Nashville.
Although his unique blend of the modern and the traditional is not to everybody's taste, Brad Paisley is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in country music today, and is certainly prolific when it comes to making high-quality albums (Wheelhouse is the 40-year-old's tenth studio LP and his first since 2011's This Is Country Music).
Thankfully for his many fans, album number ten carries on in much the same vein as those that preceded it, primarily in terms of creative use-of-language (Southern Comfort Zone, Outstanding In My Field) and breathtaking displays of musical virtuosity (Mona Lisa, Japanese-style instrumental Onryo). There is even a bit of controversy this time around, courtesy of Accidental Racist, an ambitious duet with rapper LL Cool J. More on that later.
Anyway, the 17-track CD gets off to a flying start with excellent lead-off single, the above-mentioned Southern Comfort Zone, an upbeat number about the educational and spiritual benefits of overseas travel, something more stay-at-home Americans should seek to experience.
Track two, and the second single to be released, Beat This Summer is probably my favourite track on Wheelhouse and is the perfect summer anthem, with its evocative lyrics, explosive guitar work and delightful chorus.
Outstanding In My Field is a pleasant enough duet with Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes, and is the first of five collaborative efforts. Oregon-born country singer/rapper Mat Kearney lends his rhyming skills to Pressing On A Bruise and Charlie Daniels makes his immense presence felt on Karate.
An unlikely pairing comes in the form of Death Of A Married Man and the humourous sing-a-long (complete with tuba) Harvey Bodine, with former Python Eric Idle (the subject of death rears its head again on the toe-tappin' Death Of A Single Man), while what might have been considered a strange collaboration 10 years ago, the previously cited Accidental Racist, is, as the title suggests, a look at attitudes towards race from two very different perspectives.
Indeed, much of the talk this week, following the release of the record, has been about that song. The lyrics, criticised as naive by some, are actually quite thought-provoking, suggesting that, "We're both guilty of judging the cover, not the book." Paisley subsequently addressed the issue on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Controversy and catchy tunes aside, heartfelt ballads are also well-represented. I Can't Change The World and Tin Can On A String, both of which make very effective use of the pedal steel guitar, are beautiful and show why Paisley is regarded as one of the most versatile talents of his generation - not to mention one of the best at remaining current, while at the same time delving into the 'rootsier' sounds of yesteryear.
Brad Paisley clearly likes to 'mix it up', experimenting with different musical styles, inviting guests from different musical backgrounds to perform with him and revelling in witty cultural references, something he has always done and will no doubt continue to do.
Though perhaps not the best album in his career to date, Wheelhouse is a great showcase for the singer-songwriter-guitarist's talents and is likely to be one of the finest contemporary country albums you'll hear this year.
Wheelhouse is out now.
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