Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse': Track-By-Track Review

85 Billboard Rating

Brad Paisley tackles numerous subjects on his eighth studio album "Wheelhouse." His most controversial album to date, Paisley produced the LP himself and it features hot-button topics ranging from racism, religion, and domestic abuse.

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"I wrote a bunch of songs that aren't comfortable," he confessed. "And that was the point, really -- for them to be vocally, musically, lyrically, thematically uncomfortable -- or at least new enough to me that I think I had to stretch."

Judging by the reaction to the release of his song "Accidental Racist," with LL COOL J, he wasn't lying. But don't let that track dissuade you. Paisley still knows how to have a good time and standout singles "Southern Comfort Zone" and "Beat This Summer" continue to showcase this. Join us as we take a track-by-track listen.

1. Bon Voyage - This song kicks off the album with the sound of birds chirping in the background and static from the radio. The 17-second introduction sets up the journey Paisley is about to take his listeners on.

2. Southern Comfort Zone

Combining the voice of the late Andy Griffith, a snippet of "Dixieland," and the Brentwood Baptist Church Choir, there is good reason the lead single off his album went to No. 1. A catchy earworm with heart-pounding percussion and Paisley's familiar guitar riffs, the track is just the beginning of his stepping out of his comfort zone as he invites listeners to do the same.

3. Beat This Summer

The perfect summer anthem, it's hard not to sing along to this one. A radio friendly track that begs us all to roll our car windows down and blast this at the highest volume, Paisley's memorable guitar riffs and sultry vocals satisfy.

4. Outstanding In Our Field - This fun collaboration with Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes samples Roger Miller's country classic "Dang Me." Plenty of foot-stomping and hand-clapped rhythms make this the perfect bar song. "They gonna pick up the keg and I'm gonna pick up the ice/And we're gonna show you how the experts kill us a Friday night," Paisley sings before Bentley chimes in about a friend "passed out in the grass." Frat boys everywhere celebrate.

5. Pressing On a Bruise - A country classic about chasing a girl that's no good for him, Paisley gets some help from fellow Nashville singer-songwriter Mat Kearney. Kearney surprises with his spoken word raps, which seem out of place on the track. Urging Paisley, "You got to let it go" he just doesn't listen. "It's like I'm pressing on a bruise to see if it still hurts," Paisley sings.

6. I Can't Change the World - This poignant ballad showcases Paisley at his best. Fingerpicked acoustic guitar with wavering pedal steel start off the track before he enters on vocals. This is where Paisley gets deep, asking a girl to let down her guard and let him change her world.

7. 幽 女 - Paisley has numerous instrumental-based tracks on his 17-song release, but all aren't necessary, including this one. While this sets up the standout "Karate," it also confuses.

8. Karate

This is where Paisley's songwriting gets real. Singing of domestic abuse, Paisley paints the painful picture of a woman being beaten by her husband. "She doesn't dare go in the place with those bruises on her face/So she goes through the drive-thru and keeps her sunglasses on," he sings. Somehow, though, Paisley manages to put a positive spin on a difficult topic by the song's end with his warm vocals, an impressive feat for any songwriter.

9. Death of a Married Man - Paisley lightens the mood by seguing effortlessly into this hilarious track. Featuring "Monty Python" icon Eric Idle on vocals and a striking string section, the short vignette sets up the tale on the next track.

10. Harvey Bodine - Complete with whistling and tuba, this number brings to mind Paisley's fun tongue-in-cheek humor like previous hit "Mud On the Tires." In the song, Harvey Bodine has a heart attack and is pronounced dead for five minutes. When he wakes up he's thankful to have escaped his terrible wife, if only for five minutes.

11. Tin Can On A String - Sensitive Paisley is back on this one. After all, it wouldn't be a country album without some heartbreak. In this particular case, Paisley sings of being stood up at the altar. His emotion is grandly showcased on this track and you can't help but feel for the character in the song.

12. Death of a Single Man - Paisley channels his Academy of Country Music Awards guitar partner John Mayer at the beginning of this bluesy track. With soaring guitar riffs that bring to mind Mayer, it only seems fitting that this song is the perfect single man's anthem. Additional string accompaniment further flush out the song.

13. The Mona Lisa - Inspired by a trip to Paris with his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the fast paced track impresses with gritty guitar. Easy to picture in a live setting, it shows off Paisley's handiwork.

Brad Paisley's 'Accidental Racist': LL Cool J's 10 Craziest Lyrics

14. Accidental Racist - Featuring LL COOL J, this is the controversial track that Paisley knew would garner plenty of attention: both good and bad. Bringing up a topic that is rarely touched upon in country music, Paisley's honest songwriting is heavy hitting. Alongside LL COOL J's heated raps, the duo address racism loud and clear. Lyrics like "If you don't judge my do-rag/I won't judge your red flag," have everyone talking but that was exactly the goal.

15. Runaway Train - It's hard for any track to follow "Accidental Racist" and this song falls short. Despite the heart pounding drum beats, fast-paced guitar riffs and sound of a train in the background this song gets lost in the shuffle.

16. Those Crazy Christians - While plenty of music fans were angered yesterday when Paisley released "Accidental Racist," this is the track that causes the most raised eyebrows. Though well produced, the song approaches massive Christian stereotypes from the eyes of a nonbeliever.

17. Officially Alive - A fitting end to the album, this song is as anthemic as Paisley gets. "So you've ruffled some feathers, yeah, you've done it now," Paisley sings at the track's start. Part autobiographical; it closes what is sure to be one of Paisley's most talked about albums of his career.

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