Brad Paisley ‘Wheelhouse' (Arista Nashville)
In the past year or so, Brad Paisley has performed on Garrison Keillor's “Prairie Home Companion,” made a cameo on the irreverent animated series “South Park” and released his first book, “Diary of a Player.”
So it should come as no surprise that when the singer/songwriter/guitarist, 40, named his new album “Wheelhouse” he was referring to stepping outside of it. The first single, “Southern Comfort Zone,” Paisley's 21st No. 1 hit, sings the praises of “my Tennessee home” with snippets of “The Andy Griffith Show,” a Jeff Foxworthy bit and the Brentwood Baptist Church choir's rendition of “Dixie,” while encouraging Southerners to leave their familiar surroundings and travel to Rome, Paris or other places where “not everybody knows the words to ‘Ring Of Fire' or ‘Amazing Grace.'”
The West Virginia native wrote or co-wrote all 14 songs and three interstitials on the album, and he includes many of his signatures, from endearing ballads like “The Mona Lisa” to funny ditties like “Death of a Single Man.” But “Wheelhouse” indeed has him doing things a bit differently, whether he's hilariously collaborating with Monty Python comic Eric Idle for “Death of a Married Man,” the lead-in to the uproarious “Harvey Bodine,” or sampling Oklahoma-bred Roger Miller's 1964 smash “Dang Me” for “Outstanding in Our Field,” a clever twist on down-home party songs that features Dierks Bentley on vocals and Hunter Hayes on guitar.
Charlie Daniels lends his distinctive voice to the play-by-play on “Karate,” and LL Cool J raps in earnest counterpoint to Paisley's smooth drawl on the thought-provoking “Accidental Racist.”
Even Paisley's tradition of including a hymn on his albums gets a makeover with “Those Crazy Christians.”
With “Wheelhouse,” due out Tuesday, Paisley's sound gets more of a pop and hip-hop infusion and considerably less overt traditional country influence, but as he declares in the closing anthem if “you've ruffled some feathers,” you're “Officially Alive.”
— Brandy McDonnell