Brad Paisley: Wheelhouse

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Posted April 10, 2013 by in Country
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

2.5/ 5

Details

Genre:
 
Producer:
 
Label:
 
 
 
 
Genre: Country
 
Producer: Brad Paisley
 
Label: Arista Nashville
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc
 
Time: 60:03
 
Release Date: 9 April 2013
 
Spin This: "Beat This Summer," "Karate," "Pressing On a Bruise"
 

Pros:

Controversy aside, Paisley still plays up to his strengths: twangy rollicking guitars, more experiments, musical risks that work
 

Cons:

"Accidental Racist" may be a bit too much for anyone to chew, like watching D.W. Griffin's "The Birth of a Nation" uncoil on record
 

Country kid goes for adventurous plunges, even murkier waters on controversial Southern loving album

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Country kid goes for adventurous plunges, even murkier waters on controversial Southern loving album

Anyone with a clear conscious could have predicted this kind of album was coming down the road. 2011’s This Is Country Music was Brad Paisley’s love letter to the music that’s made him a star. If the young and ambitious Nashville star was to climb to higher heights and discover uncharted territory, Wheelhouse – Paisley’s ninth career solo album – had to happen. Probably a bit discontent with the direction pop country is influencing today’s generation of straw hat wearing and leather boot walking Southerners, Paisley constructs a body of work that’s stuffed with a bundle of controversy. Not necessarily the hillbilly rebel kind, or the Dixie Chicks kind, but the kind of controversy that stops you dead in your tracks.

“Southern Comfort Zone” forces Kings of Leon arena rock unto a Southern love song for the nations. Minutes after singing of the streets of Rome, the Eiffel Tower and “kissing a West Coast girl underneath the northern lights,” he longs for his Tennessee home. It’s the country equivalent of OneRepublic’s “Good Life,” but it makes a nail-biting mistake by regurgitating the Southern stereotypes by assuming that everyone below the Mason Dixie line loves sweet tea, drives trucks, watches NASCAR races, owns a gun and goes to church. And this is where Paisley’s album either wins some or loses some. He wins kudos for keeping the music interesting. It’s still unapologetic Nashville, but he tosses choir chants around choruses, turns the heat up on the guitar solos and even uses his youthful pop-friendly voice to win a few listeners to his side. The use of guest rappers, not something totally peculiar to modern country (Ludacris guested with Jason Aldean; Nelly guested with Tim McGraw), is also a warm surprise here. Singer-songwriter Mat Kearney steps out of his traditional role and provides a few talk-sing lines in the style of Michael Franti on “Pressing on a Bruise.” But when he ventures into Southern pride commentary, particularly on “Yankie Doddle Dixie,” “Those Crazy Christians,” and “Accidental Racist,” Paisley is more in tune with the concrete rather than digging deeper into the poetic substance of the abstract. It’s all about what he sees, rather than what he feels. That type of formula tends to cut at the core of Paisley’s work, and this is where he unfortunately loses some. “Accidental Racist” probably does the worst damage, as he tries to write the wrongs of his Southern-bred ancestors. The shame from the two hundred years of evil that predates him is so heavy in context that he selfishly focuses on his post-Reconstruction era while trying his best not to ignore Brother Jim Crow. He even tries to bring in LL Cool J, a rapping New Yorker, to make the situation a bit more sedating on the sensitive ears of the NAACP. Hard to explain how this perfect union was formed when LL has absolutely no connection to the South except the “sagging pants” he references. Paisley doesn’t mean any harm, but he unfortunately creates it. It’s an accidental song which hires LL Cool J as a fill-in spokesman on civil rights, but ends up uncoiling at the seams. First of all, rap on ballads isn’t particularly convincing, since it strikes at the core of the genre’s hyper masculinity. Secondly, Paisley and LL Cool J does a poor job in the reparations department, with LL exchanging a cruel evil with a silly present one: “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains.”

For Paisley’s brew-and-blues buddies, the good tends to overshadow the bad on Wheelhouse: “Runaway Train” puts some pep in his step; “Karate” pours some light humor on a story about spousal abuse with the “yaw” kung fu chants and Charlie Daniels’ guest raps. “Beat This Summer” is a bit slower than the usual summer anthem, but will certainly feel comfy on the ears of those trying to brave out the unbearable humidity of July and August. This addendum salvages Wheelhouse from being easily pegged a Confederate flag worship album, even if it’s a very long journey (clocking well over one hour) and he’s easily playing to his GOP-painted base. Paisley is a thrill-seeking storyteller and a decent songwriter, but he really needs to start allowing others to help organize his creativity, or he’s going to be spending way too much time writing an apology record because of the previous one.

 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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