Brad Paisley, "Moonshine in the Trunk" (Arista Nashville)
Brad Paisley backs away from social issues and strikes up a party on his 10th studio album, "Moonshine in the Trunk." However, that doesn't mean he suddenly starts to play it safe.
Musically, Paisley's arrangements continue to emphasize intricate musicianship and turn-on-a-dime ensemble play, while his lyrics use witty wordplay to explore the many ways people try to escape their problems and improve their lives.
The veteran country star's knack for tongue-in-cheek fun comes through on the funky "River Bank," the fist-pumping "Crushin' It" and the high-speed high jinks of the title song. Paisley also touts American pride throughout, whether he's name-checking sports teams and muscle cars on "Country Nation" or toasting the land of opportunity on "American Flag on the Moon."
As in the past, his ambitious reach sometimes gets the best of him. On the traditional country tune "4WP," for example, Paisley jams the gears by racing through too many musical ideas too quickly.
Still, 15 years into his career, Paisley is the country singer most likely to crack jokes about a hillbilly family getting rich ("High Life") or write a sensitive power ballad about a woman breaking through the good-old-boy corporate network ("Shattered Glass"). Which also makes him the country star most likely to make fans smile -- and to make them think.