Brad Paisley's 2009 album American Saturday Night is probably the best country-music record of the 21st century. A career-best showcase for Nashville's most momentous multi-threat talent (singer/songwriter/guitarist/showman), the album's startling anthems registering delight in cultural diversity and pride in a groundbreaking if unnamed president were matched by a battery of domestic songs that honor a good, growing marriage and — not unrelated — genially mock a sexism Paisley views as anachronistic.
It was all perhaps a bit too much for the Nashville faithful — especially the visionary bit about a president hard-pressed to garner white, Southern votes. So Paisley's follow-up, This Is Country Music, was a retrenchment: shoring up the base with calculated, name-checking, fidelity-pledging openers. And yet, you can't keep a good man down: Hidden further down the line, Paisley deploys a string of gloriously corny good-ole-boy jokes in the service of gently burying the stars-and-bars. He offers up the toughest song anyone's yet cut about the housing crash, where a churchgoer takes issue with a Sunday-morning hellfire-and-brimstone sermon with this: "Payments you can't make on a house that you can't sell/A man don't have to die to go to hell." And he outlines the love-marriage-parenthood trajectory with a quick, concrete little Hallmark ditty you dismiss as too corny at your own peril.
His now-immense catalog of good songs, his regular-guy affability, and, perhaps most of all, his own hotshot guitar accompaniment make Paisley one of the surest live bets around. He returns to the Memphis area for a show at the Snowden Grove Amphitheater on Friday, August 17th, with the Band Perry and Easton Corbin. Music begins at 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. on the main stage. Tickets are available at the Snowden Grove box office or via Ticketmaster.