Wheelhouse by Brad Paisley

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Country singer/songwriter/guitarist Brad Paisley has been traveling, and it shows. His ninth studio album, Wheelhouse, begins with “Southern Comfort Zone,” a song celebrating the American South while recognizing the importance of getting out and seeing new and different things. “Southern Comfort Zone” sets the tone for the whole album, which contains lots of what Paisley’s fans expect: blazing guitar solos, songs that pull at the heartstrings, a few novelty songs, and celebrations of partying, girlfriends (or wives), tractors, and beer—with the occasional reference to Jesus.

Paisley does this better than most of his contemporaries. But what really sets this album apart is his newfound, broader experience of the world, which has caused him to come across people who are offended by things like T-shirts showing the Confederate flag. This led him to write “Accidental Racist,” a song that has generated more press in the week of its release than almost any other song in the last five or 10 years.

Paisley gets points for attempting to address the issue of racism and for bringing rapper LL Cool J in to join him on the song, but it ends up being little more than “Let’s get along” sloganeering. His plea for people to listen to each other does not include suggesting that, perhaps, one place to start is to stop wearing shirts that offend others. It glosses over a major issue with a few clever rhymes and does not really bring any new light to the discussion.

It’s too bad that one song (out of 20 on the deluxe version of the album) is all people seem to be talking about. Overall the album is quite good, but Paisley’s desire to show how travel has broadened his horizons is lost in all the hoopla surrounding “Accidental Racist.” (Arista Nashville)

About the Author

Robert J. Keeley is professor of education at Calvin College and director of distance learning at Calvin Seminary.

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