- - Monday, August 18, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Brad Paisley just can’t stop making mischief now that he’s a week away from releasing “Moonshine in the Trunk,” his 10th studio album.

In leaks that he said are only sanctioned by him, he has posted some new tracks on YouTube and informed fans via tweets with the hashtag #LeakingMoonshine.

“This album was made for the beauty of making an album,” Mr. Paisley said by phone from Los Angeles. “This is an album that I wrote, largely just about how I feel at the moment. And I feel very optimistic.”

In a world where big-name musicians either preach or pander, Mr. Paisley is the outlier. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in this Aug. 26 release. Mr. Paisley co-wrote the opening track, “Crushin’ It,” which moves in with raw acoustic music and vocals before it gets rockin’ around his signature wordplay. Even the song title has different meanings, including a verbal high-five and the literal beer-can interpretation.

(He has asked fans to send videos of themselves crushing cans. His frequent musical cohort, Carrie Underwood, led off the campaign with a video — posted on Instagram by Mr. Paisley — that shows her, well, crushing a can.)


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It’s the perfect tune to lead into an album that moves from classic country themes, such as on “River Bank” and the title track, to environmentalism (“Gone Green”) and career-ending glass ceilings (“Shattered Glass”).

Mr. Paisley excels in relating to his fans, so it’s a good bet his songs about patriotism (“JFK 1962/American Flag on the Moon”), passion (“Perfect Storm”) and rising above hard times (“High Life,” in which he name-checks Ms. Underwood) will resonate.

He likens “Moonshine in the Trunk” to a reset button in both theme and genre. Guests on past albums have included LL Cool J and B.B. King, but Mr. Paisley has veered more toward traditional country — including guests Charlie Daniels and Emmylou Harris — for this release that often celebrates the United States.

“I don’t want to hear we can’t accomplish things,” said Mr. Paisley, 41. “I don’t want to hear we can’t be happy, that the sky is falling. There are a lot of good people that are way more numerous than the bad ones.”

Fear not: Mr. Paisley hasn’t crossed into musical sermons. He rightfully suggests this album is similar to his live concert, combining music, humor and spirit.

Anyone who has attended a Paisley show can tell you that his audience howls with delight over the variety of entertainment — from the music to the multimedia displays to guests such as nonagenarian Little Jimmy Dickens to virtual collaborations with icons such as Andy Griffith.

Mr. Paisley also reaches out to his audience, such as a few years ago when a rainstorm doused lawn seat ticket holders at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia. He responded by walking out to the lawn and performing in the downpour.

But nobody’s perfect, as the backlash “Accidental Racist” — a duet with LL Cool J on his 2013 “Wheelhouse” album — proves. Mr. Paisley co-wrote the song as a response to critics who called him a racist after he wore a T-shirt bearing a Confederate flag.

“We didn’t realize there is this wildfire that spreads on certain things,” he said. “If you don’t contain it, they will [falsely interpret] what you mean. It’s hard to be louder than that. That became the issue with it.”

Mr. Paisley calls the matter a learning experience that he might not otherwise have experienced. The positive is that it might well make him more creative in his songwriting.

“I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t change it,” he said. “I am all about experiencing life and figuring things out. It brought out emotions I might never have felt if it didn’t happen. It was a misunderstanding that turned into being wrongfully persecuted in a small way. It’s fine to realize you can survive what feels like the end of the world.”

In talking to Mr. Paisley, you begin to understand that his words are heartfelt — and that’s how he successfully translates his viewpoints into music.

Consider how his 7-year-old son Huck, inspired him to write “American Flag on the Moon” after learning about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission in school.

“They had ‘Moon Day’ at his school and he walked out on our porch and said he thought he could see the flag” the astronauts planted during the mission, Mr. Paisley said. “That sums up the vibe of this album. Optimism in the face of whatever obstacles we have Looking back is twice as important as looking head if you want to learn anything Do you want to be the country that leads this planet or not? The answer is yes, we need to be the leaders.”

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