Paisley: ‘Hard To Ignore’ Serious Themes On New CD

As much as he enjoys singing about the double lives of computer geeks (“Online”) and amorous country boys (“Ticks”), Brad Paisley says there’s too much going on in the world to be too lighthearted on his new album, American Saturday Night.

“I think this country has turned on a dime in a way that none of us foresaw coming a year ago,” Paisley, whose sons are 2 years old and 2 months old, recently told The Associated Press. “I think all of that and the birth of a son and the bold new times we’re living in … it’s hard to ignore.”

Photo: AP Photo
Performing on ABC’s "Good Morning America."

Paisley, who co-wrote all 14 new songs, visits those serious themes more often than before, inspired by the historic election of Democratic President Barack Obama and the worldwide economic turmoil that’s thrown many people onto hard times.

The title track celebrates diversity (“It’s a French kiss, Italian ice margaritas in the moonlight, just another American Saturday night”) while “Welcome to the Future” offers social commentary (“I had a friend in school, running-back on a football team, they burned a cross in his front yard for asking out the homecoming queen”).

The first single, “Then,” his 10th straight to hit No. 1, is a romantic letter to his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

On this record, there are very few of the mini-stories and characters that set the tone for so many of his other successful songs, Paisley said.

“This is maybe more heartfelt this time. I didn’t even write any liner notes on this album, I didn’t write any description of it, I didn’t write any thank yous. I feel like it’s all in the record. You hear why I’m writing these songs.”

Photo: Justin Brady
Rose Garden, Portland, Ore.

Paisley carries the personal touch to the CD cover, which shows him holding a brush in front of a painting of city buildings and distant hills. He sketched the design himself and painted it in about an hour in his barn.

“It was just this idea that meant as much to me as the songs do, to be able to have a cover,” he said. “That’s another piece of me you’re seeing standing there holding that paintbrush.”

The album is the West Virginia native’s seventh collection in 10 years. His 2-year-old, Huck, makes his debut, singing the last word on “Anything Like Me,” a whimsical tune about a new father contemplating the inevitable payback that’s coming if his kid grows up to be like him.

While “American Saturday Night” covers new ground, it’s not as big a departure as Paisley’s last album, a mostly instrumental CD called “Play.” There’s still some humor and plenty of flashy guitar solos, and Paisley continues the tradition of including a gospel cut with “No,” a song he co-wrote with Grand Ole Opry star Bill Anderson and Jon Randall.

“It’s still Brad Paisley, but it’s pushed in different directions,” said Joe Galante, chairman of Sony Music Nashville, which includes the singer’s Arista label. “If I’m a fan, I’m going on this journey with him. If I’m not a fan, I’m going to be introduced to things I didn’t know he can do.”