Paisley’s latest is arena-ready

Brad Paisley, “This Is Country Music” (Arista Nashville)

Among the cliches in country music are songs about the clichis in country music, such as the tune Brad Paisley co-wrote to open his latest album. The self-congratulatory title cut panders to the converted while referencing the flag, Jesus, trucks, mama and beer.

Also common in the genre are the sort of suffocating, more-is-better song arrangements that undermine “This Is Country Music.” Paisley’s guitar-playing remains a marvel, and he composed some clever material for this 15-song set, including tunes that name-drop guests Alabama and Clint Eastwood in the title.

But Paisley also piled on layers of guitars, fiddle, banjo, pedal steel, keyboards and vocals, barely leaving himself room to breathe, much less riff. The title should be “This Is Arena Music,” because the songs are built for America’s most cavernous performing rooms rather than a pair of headphones.

Even so, the album is worth hearing, in large part because of those jaw-dropping guitar solos (there are 11, count ‘em). Two tunes mention cancer, but Paisley’s mostly in a mood for fun. “Don’t Drink The Water” is rollicking Tex-Mex party music with Blake Shelton, and the comical “Working On A Tan” combines Dick Dale guitar with a Jimmy Buffett vibe. When the boys from Alabama stop by on “Old Alabama,” the result is a hoot, while “Toothbrush” is just plain cute.

Most of the rest will be better live.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: On “Eastwood,” a spaghetti-Western-style instrumental, Paisley is convincing in the role of guitar slinger while Clint himself plays the whistling cowboy.

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