Brad Paisley put out a new album this year, and it's a safe bet no country superstar has given its label as much of a headache as Brad (this would be Wheelhouse, the album with "Accidental Racist" on it). But hey: Angry blog posts and album sales are getting less and less correlated by the day, I'm afraid, and Brad did just fine over the weekend at Gexa Energy Pavilion. So there's a special edition of Wheelhouse out now and available exclusively at Cracker Barrel. In fact, Cracker Barrel Music, which you'll be glad to know exists, co-released the special edition with Sony. They sent me a couple copies that included coupons for free meals at said Old Country Store and Restaurant, and I can't take them because it might compromise my authority to make jokes about "Accidental Racist." We shouldn't let a good order of Country Ham and Biscuits go to waste, though, so you can have them. It will come at the cost of reading some jokes about "Accidental Racist," though.
Brad Paisley, like any sane person with even a modicum of perspective on the world, believes everyone deserves some empathy and that every culture offers value. That's great, and it could have made for a remarkable lyrical undercurrent for Wheelhouse. Instead, the songs are as subtle as that Stetson -- "Accidental Racist" is the face-palmiest offender, but let's not forget "Those Crazy Christians" (spoiler alert: They're actually not crazy). And "Southern Comfort Zone," a really well-meaning attempt to embrace the growing Hispanic population in America that gets a little off-track when he equates his experience making out with California girls and taking a vacation to Europe with knowing what it's like to be a minority.
But honestly, all these songs might have fared OK in the hands of someone who didn't just miss the cut on People Magazine's recent Hottest Guys in Country issue*. Because then there's a chance they'd get to be heard in context, surrounded by dopey, awesome summer love songs and dopey, awesome kung-fu interludes. The whole album comes across more playful than dangerous or even stupid. But Twitter doesn't do whole albums. Twitter does song titles and quarter-lines (LL really should have known better than to put Confederate flags and do-rags in a single sentence). And Brad Paisley very much deserves a Twitter flogging. That's the cost of doing giant, arena-sized business in modern media.
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One of the benefits of doing giant, arena-sized business is fat checks from companies like Cracker Barrel -- they're one of many groups that noticed they could more effectively push sugars and fats if they spent a tiny fraction of their marketing budget on becoming a sort of record label (Starbucks and Mountain Dew come to mind). So that's why I have two free meals for two at Cracker Barrel sitting on my desk. First two people to get on Twitter and tell my boss the San Francisco Giants suck gets them.
*I know this because the publicist for cover boy Kenny Chesney mailed me a copy, for some reason. The man is attractive, I'll give you that.