Wheelhouse

Brad Paisley's latest is so well-meaning it's tempting to forgive how overwrought it is. He's trying to take country to new places, but even two tracks that subject the South to tough love feel confused: Interpolating the blackface-born "Dixie" into "Southern Comfort Zone" sorta cancels out LL Cool J's cameo in the clumsily audacious "Accidental Racist." Simultaneously scrutinizing and pandering to his fan base, setting obligatory Nashville themes (summer, weddings, trains) to studio pomp, he walks a tightrope and sometimes stays on – see the domestic-abuse revenge shout-along "Karate." There's even a cute "My Sharona" joke. And as always, plenty of tasty guitar.