Wheelhouse review by Brad Paisley

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Apr 9, 2013
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.7 (34 votes)
Brad Paisley: Wheelhouse

Sound — 9
Brad Paisley is a very successful Southern Country musician. He has had ten consecutive singles go to #1 on the country charts and his single from this album, "Southern Comfort Zone", reached #2. All seven of his previous albums have gone gold. He was named "Entertainer of the Year" at the Country Music Awards in 2010. With this fair amount of success, it leaves Paisley room to experiment, which he apparently did a lot of on "Wheelhouse". Admittedly, I'm not that familiar with Paisley, but I just like to call this good music.

From what I can tell many if not most people look to Brad Paisley as a storyteller, using his Southern accent and guitar twang to get a message/story across, humorous or otherwise. While I can definitely see the storytelling capabilities on this album, I think that his instrumental ability outweighs that. The point is that I'm spending more time listening to the weaving of instruments than to the lyrics of the songs.

While all of the songs on "Wheelhouse" are definitely Country in terms of vocals, much of Paisley's musicianship reeks of Blues and Southern Rock. I use "reeks" because I would feel that I am listening to a country song when Paisley puts on a slide and does a standard blues lick, changing the mood for someone like me who picks the Blues out of songs and regards it as central to the song. This harmony, in my opinion, leads to an album that can be equally appreciated by those who look for musicianship as well as sing-along tunes. One small, yet important characteristic of the album is that Paisley easily lets you know, through his music, what he is emphasizing in any given song, the vocals or the music.

While Paisley's country vocal delivery remains constant throughout the album, despite the huge lyrical changes, the music of each song is distinct to the point that I advise listening to the whole album before passing judgment on it. Some of the songs are fun to hand clap with, others are just fun to listen to, and all should be relatively easy to sing along with. The way he uses the musical aspect is how the songs are differentiated. Trust me, the songs are definitely different, you just wouldn't know that from his vocal delivery.

Typical of country, Paisley uses a bevy of instruments including some Fenders, a violin or two, a mandolin, an acoustic, and couple of studio percussion effects apart from the standard clapping effect. And while these aren't specifically instruments, Brad Paisley invites a couple of guest musicians on the album ranging from "Monty Python"'s Eric Idle to rapper LL Cool J (a man of much discussion, you will see).

In terms of guitar, Paisley uses a delay pedal at many points on the album, but mainly as an effect instead of a way of adding texture to the sound. He relies on triads much of the time to make his rhythms as well as a sprinkling of Country and Blues riffs. His guitar solos are the bluesiest part of the album, usually containing fast, twangy pentatonic licks. This is easiest to see on the instrumental named "Onryo".

Lyrics — 9
The mainstream crowd, as usual, concentrates on Brad Paisley for his lyrics. Again, just to point out, his country vocal delivery remains constant throughout the album, even when it makes sense for him to change it.

Now, lyrically, Brad Paisley goes many routes, sometimes using humor, at other times just telling a story, and yet at other points of the seventeen song album, he is dead serious. In my opinion, all of the lyrics could carry a heavier meaning if they were put with matching music and delivery. Still, they're pretty damn good.

As to the humor, in my opinion, the funniest is "Harvey Bodine":

"Harvey Bodine
Died at 11:09
And he left behind
A miserable wife.
And at 11:14
His heart came back on the screen.
Thanks to that defib machine,
He came back to life.

Oh but those five minutes were heaven.
A peace unlike he'd ever known.
And as he came back to the living
He thought 'Please God, don't make me go
Back to life.'

There is plenty of storytelling on the album, none of which is notable enough to write here, but his serious lyrics, for one reason or another, have been viewed as inflammatory.

Along with "Those Crazy Christians", the first of the serious song is "Karate", a song about spousal abuse:

"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
She didn't know when she married that man
She'd get to know him like the back of his hand
But now she's had enough, and the battle lines are drawn.

The second song, featuring African-American rapper, LL Cool J, is "Accidental Racist". I truly don't know why, but some over-sensitive, mainstream media, attention-greedy, people took offense with the lyrics of this song, so much so that LZ Granderson wrote an article on CNN defending Paisley.

Here are the lyrics to the song. The bolded words are sung by LL Cool J.

"To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand

When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an 'ol can of worms
Lookin' like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

I'm just a white man comin' to you from the southland
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
We're still pickin' up the pieces, walkin' on eggshells, fightin' over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We're still siftin' through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that's a good place to begin
But it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else's skin

'Cause I'm a white man livin' in the southland
Just like you I'm more than what you see
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
And we're still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I'm still misunderstood
I wasn't there when Sherman's March turned the south into firewood

You'll have to forgive me for including so many lyrics to that song, but I felt obligated by the buzz that this song received. One notable thing is that this is the song where the instruments are totally laid back and the music matches the vocal delivery 100%. So make your own opinion and weigh in with comments. Personally, and I live in the part of the country where all of the old New Yorkers have moved to, this song isn't offensive.

Overall Impression — 7
Overall, while this may be considered experimental as far as Brad Paisley goes, I don't think that he pushed his musical limits and that he still has room to grow. This album is great to listen to because of the musical aspect of it; the blending of Country, Blues, and Rock. The instrumentals are my favorite part of the album, showing Brad Paisley isn't just a storyteller. In fact, on "Wheelhouse", I thought that he was a much better musician than lyricist. Still, his lyrics were good enough to stir conversation and they're better than the lyrics of many other artists, if you know what I mean.

On a scale of all the music I've ever heard, it ranks around a seven, but when put into proper perspective, it deserves the overall rating that is given.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I know this can often be a metal focused site, which I absolutely love, however my musical taste doesn't stop there. It's nice to see some branching out once and a while. PS. I love Paisley's use of the tractor as percussion in SCZ.
    On "Runaway Train" they used the sound of a train moving instead of a metronome, pretty cool stuff.
    nice review, love brad paisley. Sometimes the lyrics on the album can be a bit cheesy but gets away with it when used with a bit of tongue and cheek humour. Guitar playing as always is superb.
    If you haven't heard his mostly instrumental album find it steal it or do whatever you have to do to get it. Its a huge favorite of mine. Crazy shredding in all styles EXCEPT shred.
    Play: The Guitar Album is his instrumental album, or at least mostly instrumental. So many different styles of playing on it, such an underrated album. Paisley is the best mainstream country musician right now, bc he actually wrote his own songs and sing about different topics rather than the cliche' crap you heard so much on the radio. Monster guitar player. Got to to see him live twice and both times he was amazing. This album is another solid release.
    Its a good album, Brad Paisley is an amazing guitarist, and prob one of the best in country music.
    This is the racist guy, isn't it.
    Calling him racist after misinterpreting a single song on his ninth album. Yeah, ok...
    This is a stupid guy, isn't it.
    I'll start listening to country when a single country musician tries to sound original and not like the other 2346523452345 Garth Brooks clones that make idiot women swoon. And what's with the cowboy hat still being around? The last time those were "needed" was in the late 1800s. Are hicks just this stubborn?
    It's all a stylistic choice. If you don't like the style of country music, you probably won't like it, unless your tastes change. I would suggest folk, if you want country music that isn't country music - although, just as country has slowly been affected by main stream pop, there are a few folk bands who have shown the same influences - not a terrible thing, but it might not be to your liking. Also, there is really no "need" for any kind of hat - singling one particular variety out as unnecessary just makes you look like a douchebag.
    I'd rather see cowboy hats take off again than continue to put up with the bullshit trend of gentlemen's hats that all the hipster twenty-somethings are wearing these days. And this is my generation I'm talking about. It's like a bunch of us woke up one morning and were like, "I want to look like a douchebag today." Fedoras are awful, too.
    Hank III
    can't sing for shit. I love good country, but Hank III is not it. He's as overrated as they come. If you want good country that has some mainstream exposure, Jamey Johnson and Eric Church are where it's at.