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There are a few things you can count on with every new Brad Paisley album: great tone, somewhat shtick-y lyrics, and the most stone-cold country shred this side of Hank Garland. That being said, Paisley’s albums sometimes seem burdened by heavy-handed production. With Wheelhouse, Paisley continues to take chances and push modern country away from the auto-tuned sing-alongs with a simple twist of his G-bender.
Released nearly six months before the album release, “Southern Comfort Zone” is a nostalgic look at life below the Mason-Dixon line. Paisley throws in just enough EL84-powered twang and Stones-inspired double stops to keep the guitar nerd’s eyes from glazing over. The melding of country-rock riffing and programmed drum beats on the intro to “Outstanding in Our Field” shows that Paisley isn’t afraid to push buttons (literally) when it comes to a perceived “innovation” in country music. Don’t get me wrong, I love innovation as much as the next 6-stringer, but there is a fine line between a true visionary and an artist who’s never heard the word “no.” Wheelhouse is Paisley’s most pop-sounding album to date, and with that, makes me wonder how long it will be before that vitamin that you stick in the cupcake disappears completely. —Jason Shadrick
Must-hear tracks: "Southern Comfort Zone," "Onryo"
"Southern Comfort Zone" from Wheelhouse