Brad Paisley is one of the most known voices of US country music today and very rightly so. Swaying between traditional country and Southern rock, and referencing pop culture humour in his songs has made him a favourite even to the most casual of country/rock listeners. His ninth studio album, “Wheelhouse”, released in April 2013, has ventured a wide range of lyrical and musical ground.
The album opens with “Southern Comfort Zone” - upbeat, easy flowing, a perfect album starter. It's about a young man who leaves his town to go to new places, outside the comfort zone of his town and life. The lyrics have the signature Brad Paisley flare, so does the guitar works.
A catchy, quirky intro into a vocal hum gets the next track “Beat this Summer” started, and in the first 30 seconds, you know it's one of those sweet love songs that make country music awesome. The change of season, coupled with the longing to relish the last moments of an ending relationship makes up the lyrics.
“Outstanding In Our Field” -- featuring country artistes Dierks Bentley and Roger Miller with Hunter Hayes on guitar – is just about three carefree guys enjoying life to the fullest. The chorus, “No we ain't nothin' special / We ain't no big deal / But if you wanna throw a party in the middle of nowhere / We're outstanding in our field” pretty much tells the tale.
The more conventionally acoustic and rhythmic “Pressin' on a Bruise” is a post-break-up reflection, with Paisley's typical easily-versed words touching the feelings that many can relate to. Mat Kearney's little rappy verse makes for a nice transition in the middle.
“I Can't Change the World” begins with a fingerpicked acoustic pattern reminiscent of the famous “Whiskey Lullaby”, and the lyrics hit the depth that Paisley had made a name for himself for. The softly-versed lyric walks into an incredibly touchy chorus, backed with wailing guitar notes, and an archtop-style solo. One of the standouts of the album.
“Onryo” (meaning Quiet Female), the next track, is a fun instrumental with obscurely sung lyrics in a female voice, as if from far, far behind. More of a filler than a song, and a little haywire in terms of album sequence.
“Karate” issues a serious topic, that of domestic violence. A powerful lyric moves on in an upbeat pattern, telling the story of a woman abused by her husband, who takes up karate lessons looking to “finally have the belt to match her eye”. Charlie Daniels' intense commentary in the middle leads up to the happy ending of the woman finally standing up against abuse. A deceptively strong song.
“Death of a Married Man” is a fragment of a song lasting less than a minute, with comedic composer Eric Idle basically saying how he had a heart attack. An experimental piece, albeit not probably a successful one.
To be continued…