Summer Preview

Paisley pioneers new frontiers for country

Brad Paisley (shown performing in Las Vegas in April) is proud to be a country star, but his musical influences range from Little Jimmy Dickens to Eddie Van Halen. Brad Paisley (shown performing in Las Vegas in April) is proud to be a country star, but his musical influences range from Little Jimmy Dickens to Eddie Van Halen. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / May 22, 2011

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Brad Paisley’s new album opens with an anthem, a musical valentine to the community that has made him one of its most beloved stars over the past decade.

“It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, or momma,’’ Paisley sings over the strum of acoustic guitar as fiddle and banjo slowly creep in. “Yeah, that might be true/ But this is country music/ And we do.’’

The song is called “This Is Country Music,’’ and it’s also the title track off Paisley’s latest album, which will be released tomorrow. If the title imparts a sense of pride, even a little bit of defiance, that’s what Paisley had intended.

“I’m very proud of being in country music, in spite of the fact that oftentimes I’ll tell someone what I do, and they’ll say, ‘Oh,’ ’’ Paisley says recently from California, where he has an oceanfront home. “There’s a few people out there who think, ‘That must not have been your first choice. You must be a frustrated something else.’ But no, that’s what I do, that’s what I grew up with.’’

What those skeptics don’t realize is that Paisley, who comes to the Comcast Center on July 16, is one of contemporary country music’s most original artists. Raised in West Virginia, the 38-year-old grew up with an appreciation of all kinds of music. One minute he name-checks country old-timer Little Jimmy Dickens, the next he’s talking about his admiration for Van Halen’s guitar heroics.

Paisley’s albums brim with left-of-center ideas that most other mainstream artists would iron out of the finished product. His 2009 album, “American Saturday Night,’’ featured a song about the cultural shifts that Barack Obama’s presidential win signified; it was called “Welcome to the Future.’’

“This Is Country Music’’ is more straightforward than that. It’s a quintessential Paisley album, from its themes (heartache, the value of family, religion) to Paisley’s insistence on including a few surprises.

Yes, that’s really Clint Eastwood’s voice and whistle on “Eastwood,’’ a blistering instrumental that pays homage to the actor’s spaghetti westerns. (“He’s a heck of a whistler, ain’t he?’’ Paisley says, obviously delighted that he sweet-talked Eastwood into collaborating.)

Meanwhile, “Working on a Tan’’ channels the summer spirit of the ’60s, replete with sunny harmonies worthy of the Beach Boys. He enlisted Alabama to sing on “Old Alabama,’’ about a woman who gets in the mood for romance when she hears the country super-group.

“One of Those Lives,’’ Paisley admits, will present a challenge if and when he performs it at Comcast this summer. There’s a lyric about “a little angel in a Yankees cap.’’

“I debated that,’’ Paisley says, adding that it would be in his best interest not to mention the Yankees in front of country fans in New England. “I guarantee you if that song’s a single, it’ll be tweaked. You won’t ever hear ‘Yankees cap’ on WKLB in Boston. [Program director] Mike Brophey won’t have to worry.’’

It was recently announced that Paisley will be featured on the soundtrack to the upcoming animated Pixar film “Cars 2.’’ True to his unpredictable ways, he recorded a duet, “Collision of Worlds,’’ with British pop singer Robbie Williams, the idea being that they represent a clash of two genres. (“He’s so much fun,’’ Paisley says of his recording partner. “He’s so self-effacing and so humble and such a big kid. He hit it off better with my 4-year-old than with me.’’)

Paisley describes the song as “Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Zeppelin meets U2. There’s really no country aspect to it, other than the guy singing it.’’

He mentions that the experience took him out of his comfort zone, which begs a bigger question: Does he even have one at this point?

“You know where my comfort zone is? Within whatever box you would consider country music. It’s a vague little box, but I stay within it,’’ Paisley says. “When something doesn’t, I’ll usually push it aside and figure out where else it goes in my career.’’

James Reed can be reached at


With Blake Shelton and Jerrod Niemann

At: Comcast Center, July 16, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $25-$59.75. 800-745-3000,


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