Country artist Brad Paisley’s new album, Wheelhouse is unlike many of the records that he is released over the course of his career. This latest release from the pop country guitarist and singer is entertaining from start to finish. The closes comparison that can be made is perhaps to the likes of his 2008 album, Play. Audiences will enjoy Wheelhouse whether in its standard edition, extended deluxe edition or even its special Cracker Barrel Edition. Musically, it is a catchy record that is front loaded with fun, poppy country songs that are instantly radio ready. Lyrically, they definitely don’t entirely fit the mold of the songs that make up country’s rich history. They range in content from songs of lost love, to more whimsical musings of relationships, to a much deeper social issue in his duet with rapper LL Cool J. “Uncle L’ isn’t the only star that guests on Paisley’s new album. Veteran Charlie Daniels also makes an appearance along with Mat Kearney and others. That Paisley can pull big names to help him, and run the gamut both musically and lyrically shows just how talented he is, and obviously how respected he is by his peers and fans. In the end, it shows that this is undoubtedly one of 2013’s top country albums.
The musical and lyrical variety that makes up Wheelhouse is impressive to say the least. It is the heart of what makes the album so impressive. There are those that have had some rather negative things to say about the state of country music today. True, much of today’s country music has gone pop. But is that such a bad thing? Wheelhouse is proof that sometimes it’s a good thing to get away from the old school country-western themes of lovelorn figures and drinking one’s woes away. ‘Death of a Single Man’ is proof of that. Paisley’s male audiences will find themselves laughing and agreeing with him as he sings about a man who metaphorically speaking, died, the day that he got married. One could almost see this song being made into a music video, if it hasn’t already been made into one. Paisley sings playfully in this song, “Remember when/We got the news/Confirming our worst fears/I said he wouldn’t make it six months/Others gave him a year/And sure enough/Last Saturday/We paid our last respects/He left us here/Still in this life/He’s gone on to/The next/I’ve never seen/Him wear a tie/He looked so natural/Almost like life/The preacher spoke/His mother cried/When he said/Son, you may now kiss the bride/Everyone cheered/I thought how odd/I didn’t understand/Why would champagne and cake/Be celebrating/The death of a single man?” The way that he plays on a funeral and ties in the bluesy guitar part makes the song that much more funny for listeners. The fun doesn’t end with this verse, either. It gets even better. But that’s something that listeners will have to discover for themselves when they pick up Wheelhouse.
‘Death of a Single Man’ is just one of the funnier moments that fill Wheelhouse. There are plenty of other funny moments peppered throughout the record. By comparison, there are also more emotional moments to contrast the likes of ‘Death of a Single Man.’ A prime example of that contrast is the song, ‘Tin Can on a String.’ It’s no coincidence that this song precedes ‘Death of a Single Man.’ It shows the exact opposite side of the relationship game. Instead of being whimsical song about the end of bachelorhood, ‘Tin Can on a String’ sees a young man lamenting having let go the woman that he loved long ago, and watching her go off and get married to another man. The problem is that he can’t seem to let go, thus comparing himself to a ‘Tin Can on a String’ behind the happy couple’s car as they drive away. Just as the more bluesy vibe of ‘Death of a Single Man’ is a perfect complement to that song, so is the more introspective sound of this song.
Paisley has shown two completely opposite sides of one coin quickly and easily in the two aforementioned songs. They are a good yin and yang. And they get the standard musical country fare out of the way, thus clearing the way for what is one of the most interesting songs on the album in ‘Accidental Racist.’ Not many country music artists can say openly that they tackle the issue of race relations in their albums. Even fewer can say that they have tackled the subject and been joined by a rapper to tackle the subject. Paisley is joined by rapper LL Cool J on this gentle yet hard hitting song about stereotypes faced both by southern white males and African Americans even today. It shows the ugly truth that as much as Americans would love to deny it, race relations is still very much a hot button issue in the twenty-first century. The issue is raised largely through the subject of what the two men wear. Paisley sings about a man wearing a shirt with a confederate flag on it. LL Cool J raps about a man wearing sagging jeans. Both focus on the view that people have on their subject because of what they wear, and how deep the issue goes. It’s buried deep in the album’s sequencing. But the very fact that Paisley would once again tackle such a hot button social issue in a genre that would rather stay as far from it as possible makes him and his new album that much more worthy of respect.
Whether for its deep social commentary or the counterpoint of its songs of love gained and lost, or other songs, Wheelhouse offers every audience something enjoyable. Whether it marks the first time that one is being exposed to Paisley’s music or one is far more familiar with his songs, this is a song that any listener will enjoy for one reason or another. It is available now in stores and online. Audiences can download Wheelhouse on iTunes via Paisley’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/bradpaisley. Brad’s Canadian fans will get to see him live this Thursday night when he performs live at the South Okanagan Events Center in Penticton, British Columbia. A full slate of tour dates is available on Brad Paisley’s Facebook page as well as his official website, http://www.bradpaisley.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bradpaisley.
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