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Brad Paisley at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre

BRAD PAISLEY

WITH CHRIS YOUNG;
LEE BRICE;
THE HENNINGSENS

♦ 7 p.m. May 11

♦ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park

♦ Tickets, $19.25-$54.25

♦ (800) 745-3000;
ticketmaster.com

Maps

Updated: June 11, 2013 6:14AM



NASHVILLE, TENN. — Give most country songwriters the phrase Southern Comfort Zone, and most of them immediately will go to whiskey.

Brad Paisley’s mind works differently.

“Would that song be about hanging out around a bonfire in the middle of the country and holding a certain brand of whiskey?” wonders the singer, whose new album “Wheelhouse” features a song by that name. “Or is that about leaving there and what you learn and how you’ll never be the same? To me, the one that felt like it hadn’t been written would be the one about leaving.”

“That sort of set the tone for where things were going” for Paisley’s new album. Throughout his 14-year recording career, Paisley, 40, has built a reputation for having a singular perspective: offering humorous takes on pop culture in “Online” and “Celebrity”; turning “Whiskey Lullaby,” a song about two suicides, into a massive hit; and, most presciently, celebrating technology and globalization in his 2009 single “Welcome to the Future.”

That’s a markedly different approach from the norm for male country singers, whose songs are more likely to defensively celebrate and elevate a “country” lifestyle.

“As far as what’s my wheelhouse, what’s my comfort zone, that’s growing a little bit” on the new album, Paisley said. “If things that are way outside of it enhanced my telling a story ... that’s what I wanted to do.”

The most interesting songs on “Wheelhouse” make an attempt to broaden perspectives, both Paisley’s and his audience’s. A trip to Paris inspired an unconventional love song, “The Mona Lisa.” In “Karate,” which features a spoken-word segment from Charlie Daniels, a woman in an abuse-filled marriage chooses to level the playing field by taking secret martial arts classes. “Those Crazy Christians” can be seen as an effort to explain the behavior of a significant part of his fan base to those who don’t share their beliefs.

“I’m really proud of that song,” said Paisley, who considers “Those Crazy Christians”: a gospel song written from a nonbeliever’s perspective. However, he added, “I still think there will be people who misunderstand what I’m saying, but welcome to the Internet. But that is the job of art, to promote discussion.”

No song on “Wheelhouse” has garnered more discussion — primarily negative — than “Accidental Racist” (written by Lee Thomas Miller and rapper LL Cool J) which is, at its heart, a discussion itself. The backlash came almost immediately from several websites including Gawker, which called it a “real, horrible song” and accused Paisley of “passive-aggressively defend(ing) the South.”

“I thought it was bold and courageous for a guy in his genre to want to address that topic,” said LL Cool J, who performs on the duet with Paisley. “If he’s willing to take that bold step to bring about some healing, bring about some dialogue, get people to talk, especially at this time in America, I’m with it 100 [percent].”

Paisley was doing plenty of explaining on the album’s publicity rounds before and after its release in April, telling Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show”: “Racism has been on my mind,” he said of what inspired the song. “Last year, we had some really powerful movies deal with it really well. We had ‘Django [Unchained] and ‘Lincoln,’ and I thought maybe it would be an interesting conversation between country music and rap music to deal with this subject between two individuals in a loving and understanding way. ... So maybe if something good comes about from it — my prayer is that it’ll make something good happen.”

Gannett News Service



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