Wheelhouse (album)

Wheelhouse is the ninth studio album by American country music artist Brad Paisley. The album was released on April 9, 2013 by Arista Nashville, with Paisley being the only producer on the album instead of Frank Rogers.

Studio album by
ReleasedApril 9, 2013 (2013-04-09)
LabelArista Nashville
ProducerBrad Paisley
Brad Paisley chronology
This Is Country Music
Moonshine in the Trunk
Singles from Wheelhouse
  1. "Southern Comfort Zone"
    Released: September 27, 2012
  2. "Beat This Summer"
    Released: March 4, 2013
  3. "I Can't Change the World"
    Released: August 19, 2013
  4. "The Mona Lisa"
    Released: December 9, 2013


The album was recorded at Paisley's home in Franklin, Tennessee, which in order to do this he "converted the yellow farmhouse on his property to a studio, which allowed him to work on the album at all hours of the day and night."[1]

Music and lyricsEdit

With respect to subject matter, The New York Times Jon Caramanica noted how Paisley "tackles a host of country pieties out in the open, as if sensing the moment might finally be right to hear country songs about difference."[2] Daryl Addison of GAC found that this album was an "adventurous undertaking".[3] At the Los Angeles Times, Randy Lewis affirmed that Paisley "taking on such hot-button topics as spousal abuse, Southern provincialism, racism and social justice alongside characteristically well-crafted mainstream country fare."[4] To this, Jerry Shirver of USA Today exclaimed "bravo to Brad Paisley for being among the wave of mainstream country artists who keep prodding the genre into the here and now, lyrically and musically."[5] So, Caramanica found that "by being studiously strait-laced, though, Mr. Paisley is exactly the type of person who might slip in unnoticed and effect change."[2] However, AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine alluded to how the album "suffers when the cross-cultural ambition is too great."[6] Spin magazine's Jason Gubbels writes this is because Paisley "forgot his moral insights have always functioned best as ambiguities, not set pieces."[7]

Bernard Perusse of The Gazette said the album features "catchy melodies, plainspoken lyrics and one man's attempt to transplant contemporary country from its red-state ghetto into the hearts of everyone."[8] Taste of Country's Billy Dukes told that "'Wheelhouse' delivers a familiar mix of humor, life lessons and scorching guitar solos, but it does it in a way different from any of the other eight albums the...singer has released," which he evoked how Paisley "took his old formula, balled it up, lit it on fire and tossed the ashes in the garbage".[9] In addition, Lewis of the Los Angeles Times found that the music is packaged up "in an arena-ready singalong," that Paisley "tacitly inviting listeners to sample his perspective."[4] At The Boston Globe, Scott McLennan praised the writing on this album as being "sharp".[10] Addison of GAC found that with Paisley "producing and writing/co-writing every song himself, Brad delivers 14 full songs that are incredibly thoughtful, well crafted and willing to take risks without losing what fans love most – his personality and clever songwriting."[3]

On the topic of musical styling, McLennan of The Boston Globe told that "Paisley cooks through honky-tonk, country swing, the blues, rockabilly, and weepy ballads with assured command, topping off each song with at least one memorable line".[10] Lastly, Bob Paxman of Country Weekly surmised that "with clever splices of sonic experimentation and songs that run from fanciful to downright serious, Wheelhouse seems to stand as Brad's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which it is not "quite that monumental, to be clear", but does give the listener a "declarative statement that Brad is branching out in a more divergent path than ever before."[11] At The New York Times, Caramanica alluded to how "Mr. Paisley isn’t pushing musical boundaries, but that’s by design: the messages would matter less if they were coming from someone other than a country insider."[2]

With respect to the album duration, Roughstock's Matt Bjorke felt the work was rather long in terms of duration it "just [seemed] too ambitious for an artist not exactly known for being all that ambitious" musically, yet he hoped "that Brad maintains some of the juju found on this record -- the explorations of other genres w/o abandoning Country Music's bedrock instruments -- and reigns himself in a little bit on his next album."[12] In agreement, Taste of Country's Dukes said that "seventeen tracks are too many, even if a few are little more than interludes", yet Paisley "earns an extra half star for some daring production," which "a lack of momentum holds back a project that’s full of good ideas spaced apart."[9]

In terms of guitar playing, Gary Graff of The Oakland Press praised Paisley for his instrument playing acumen, when he said "there's nothing at all funny about Paisley’s guitar chops, which are still sharp throughout these 17 tracks."[13] Also, McLennan commented that the guitar work is "impeccable."[10] Paxman of Country Weekly vowed that "the musicianship on Wheelhouse is incredible and Brad just keeps on getting more flavorful as a guitarist".[11] At Premier Guitar Jason Shadrick evoked how Paisley "continues to take chances and push modern country away from the auto-tuned sing-alongs with a simple twist of his B-bender," which he even "throws in just enough EL84-powered twang and Stones-inspired double stops to keep the guitar nerd’s eyes from glazing over".[14] In addition, Chuck Eddy of Rolling Stone noted that "as always, plenty of tasty guitar" from Paisley is featured on the album.[15] Lastly, GAC's Addison proclaimed Paisley a "virtuoso guitar lick."[3] However, Robert Christgau of MSN Music was not so praiseworthy about Paisley on guitar, when he wrote that "a lot of the time he's trying too hard to say too little or trying too clumsily to say too much, sometimes even with his trusty guitar."[16]


The songs on the album touches on various aspects such as "Southern Comfort Zone" with xenophobia, domestic violence with "Karate", racism with "Accidental Racist" and religion with "Those Crazy Christians".[2][5] "Southern Comfort Zone" has been described as a "cousins of sorts to his multi-cultural paean 'American Saturday Night'",[6] and the song "preaches the value of travel while masking it in a wistfulness for the familiarity of home."[2] "Beat This Summer" has been described as "the perfect summer anthem".[17] The song "Outstanding in Our Field" has been called a "party anthem".[4] "Pressing on a Bruise" is a ballad that has some rap on it by Mat Kearney.[9] The song "I Can't Change the World" is a "poignant ballad" that contains "fingerpicked acoustic guitar with wavering pedal steel start off the track before he enters on vocals", but even though this is a "smartly written love song" Paisley "doesn’t quite have the pathos to deliver."[2][17]

The song "'Onryo' offers up fun around the horn solos, but the focus here is on the songwriting."[3] "Karate" has been referenced as being like "Martina McBride's 'Independence Day,' the Dixie Chicks' 'Goodbye Earl,' and Miranda Lambert's 'Gunpowder & Lead,'" which because "Mr. Paisley may be the first male singer to approach the subject with such a honed sense of justice" in mind that he "pulls off with grace."[2][6] The song "Harvey Bodine" is "about a henpecked man who dies, finds himself at more peace in death than in life and then, after he’s been resuscitated, decides to leave his wife", which the death lasted just "five minutes".[2][9] "Tin Can on a String" has been portrayed as "a ballad of lost love", which "Paisley sings of being stood up at the altar. His emotion is grandly showcased on this track and you can't help but feel for the character in the song."[4][17] The song "Death of a Single Man" has been noted that it "reads like a funeral, but it describes a wedding", which it is "the perfect single man's anthem."[2][17] "The Mona Lisa" has been described as "a love song" that was "inspired by a trip to Paris with his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the fast paced track impresses with gritty guitar."[6][17]

The song "Accidental Racist" featuring LL Cool J is "a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover polemic", which to some "this has about as much sociological insight as a fortune cookie."[11] In addition, this song has been derided as "far less successful than 'Over and Over,' the 2004 collaboration between Tim McGraw and Nelly, and a far less reconciliatory one too."[2] On the other hand, it was seen as a song that is an "honest discussion about race".[3] "Runaway Train" is a "fast-paced" song that "lets loose for some of the project’s most impressive axe-slinging and the cowboy instrumental".[3][17] The song "Those Crazy Christians" is where Paisley "admires faith while harboring doubts of his own, never taking potshots at those who believe", and it "deftly tweaks and salutes the faithful among whom Paisley grew up."[6] Yet, some see it as approaching "massive Christian stereotypes from the eyes of a nonbeliever."[17] "Officially Alive" has been called "anthemic" that is "part autobiographical".[17]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Country WeeklyB+[11]
The Independent     [18]
Los Angeles Times    [4]
MSN Music (Expert Witness)B+[16]
Premier Guitar     [14]
Rolling Stone     [15]
USA Today    [5]

Wheelhouse has received mostly positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, a website which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 from reviews by mainstream critics, it currently holds a metascore of 76, based on 10 reviews.[19] At the Los Angeles Times, Lewis affirmed that "Brad Paisley ratchets up his Bard-like savvy on 'Wheelhouse,'" but it is done with "Paisley's master stroke is to mine empathy — not frustration — from that experience, still embracing his core values while quietly extending others the same courtesy."[4] At The Oakland Press, Graff wrote that with respect to this album, it is just "as good a time as anything he’s recorded" in the past.[13] Shriver of the USA Today exclaimed that "a genuine honesty and sincerity shine through" in his music on this album.[5] At The Gazette, Perusse found that "Wheelhouse does live up to its name".[8] Taste of Country's Dukes rated the album three-and-a-half-stars-out-of-five, and wrote "the result is a meaty and ambitious project that doesn’t always click, but clears new ground when it does."[9] At Billboard, Annie Reuter vowed that "Paisley still knows how to have a good time" even though the material here is quite weighty.[17] McLennan of The Boston Globe gave a positive review, when he wrote "Brad Paisley can swing for the top of the charts and not lose any respect in the process."[10] At Country Weekly, Paxman noted that "serious music buffs are going to love Wheelhouse, while cursory fans may be left scratching their heads", and this is because "that’s what happens when you refuse to play it safe."[11] NPR's music critic Will Hermes affirmed that "the jury's still out on his therapeutic approach, but as a musician, he's at the top of his game."[20] GAC's Addison claimed that "when the joyous anthem 'Officially Alive' arrives to close the album, the total impact of Wheelhouse is felt with a daring and adventurous collection full of striking emotion to create one of the year’s best releases."[3] At Spin, Jason Gubbels felt that outside "Accidental Racist" the album has "16 other rather good songs", but felt that "Paisley's desire to step outside his comfort zone now seems eerily presaged by the figure emblazoned on Wheelhouse's cover, plunging into the void."[7] MSN Music's critic Christgau found the album to contain "two or three great songs and a fair number of pretty good ones".[16] Andy Gill of The Independent stated that "on the excellent Wheelhouse, Brad Paisley tiptoes a fine line between satisfying his core country audience and encouraging them to more adventurous attitudes."[18]

Conversely, Allmusic music critic Erlewine claimed that the title "Wheelhouse, is a fake-out" in comparison to his previous album, but that "throughout the album, Paisley finds something to celebrate in every little corner of the world, or at the very least, the countries where his career has taken him."[6] At Premier Guitar, Shadrick found that "Wheelhouse is Paisley’s most pop-sounding album to date, and with that, makes me wonder how long it will be before that vitamin that you stick in the cupcake disappears completely."[14] PopMatters's Dave Heaton gave the album a six-out-of-ten, and alluded to how Paisley has a "limited" wheelhouse "intellectually".[21] At Rolling Stone, Eddy affirmed that "Brad Paisley's latest is so well meaning it's tempting to forgive how overwrought it is", which is because "two tracks that subject the South to tough love" in "Southern Comfort Zone" and "Accidental Racist" "feel confused".[15] Roughstock's Matt Bjorke told that "Wheelhouse is a different album for Brad Paisley", which is the reason he rated it two-and-a-half-out-of-five-stars, but felt that "Wheelhouse is a record that Brad Paisley had to make -- it's a record that every artist of his stature needs to make -- at some point in his career. It's certainly risk-taking in many places and certainly instrumentally interesting but it still feels…lacking."[12]

Commercial performanceEdit

The album debuted at #1 in the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, selling over 100,000 copies in the first week, becoming Paisley's seventh number one album.[22] It also peaked at #2 in Billboard 200, behind Paramore's self-titled album.[23] As of June 12, 2013, the album has sold 207,000 copies in the U.S.[24]

Track listingEdit

Standard edition
1."Bon Voyage"Walter Donaldson, Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young0:19
2."Southern Comfort Zone"Brad Paisley, Chris DuBois, Kelley Lovelace5:16
3."Beat This Summer"Paisley, DuBois, Luke Laird4:41
4."Outstanding in Our Field" (featuring Dierks Bentley and Roger Miller with Hunter Hayes on guitar)Paisley, Mike Dean, DuBois, Lee Thomas Miller, Roger Miller4:02
5."Pressing On a Bruise" (featuring Mat Kearney)Paisley, Mat Kearney, Lovelace3:17
6."I Can't Change the World"Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace4:41
7."幽女 (Onryo[25])" (meaning "Quiet Female") (Instrumental)Paisley, Justin Williamson, Randle Currie1:39
8."Karate" (featuring Charlie Daniels)Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace4:04
9."Death of a Married Man" (featuring Eric Idle)Paisley0:47
10."Harvey Bodine"Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace3:28
11."Tin Can On a String"Paisley, Ashley Gorley, Lovelace4:08
12."Death of a Single Man"Paisley, Lovelace, Miller4:24
13."The Mona Lisa"Paisley, DuBois3:54
14."Accidental Racist" (featuring LL Cool J)Paisley, Miller, James Todd Smith5:51
15."Runaway Train"Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace4:28
16."Those Crazy Christians"Paisley, Lovelace4:21
17."Officially Alive"Paisley3:56
Total length:1:03:16
Deluxe edition
18."Yankee Doodle Dixie"traditional, arr. Chet Atkins, Paisley1:12
19."Facebook Friends"Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace[26]4:10
20."Get Even"Paisley, Tim Paul Owens[27]3:25
21."Southern Comfort Zone" (acoustic version)Paisley, DuBois, Lovelace4:37
Total length:1:16:35
Cracker Barrel special edition
18."Only Way She'll Stay"Paisley, DuBois[28]3:15
19."She Never Really Got Over Him"Paisley, Robert Arthur[29]3:05
20."Beat This Summer" (acoustic)Paisley, DuBois, Laird3:38
Total length:1:13:14


Chart performanceEdit

Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (2013) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart[30] 2
US Billboard 200[30] 2
US Billboard Top Country Albums[30] 1

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (2013) Position
US Billboard 200[31] 100
US Top Country Albums (Billboard)[32] 23


Year Single Peak chart positions
US Country US Country Airplay US CAN Country CAN
2012 "Southern Comfort Zone" 10 2 54 2 58
2013 "Beat This Summer" 9 2 46 3 51
"I Can't Change the World" 33 22 122 43
"The Mona Lisa" 24 19 105 38
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  1. ^ Evans-Price, Deborah (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse' Album Provides Unexpected Twists (Exclusive Interview)". The Boot. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Caramanica, Jon (April 9, 2013). "Taking Country Less Conservative: Brad Paisley's 'Wheelhouse'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Addison, Daryl (April 8, 2013). "GAC Album Review: Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse". Great American Country. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Randy (April 9, 2013). "Album review: Brad Paisley ratchets up his Bard-like savvy on 'Wheelhouse'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Shriver, Jerry (April 2, 2013). "Listen Up: Give Brad Paisley's 'Wheelhouse' a spin". USA Today. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (April 7, 2013). "Wheelhouse - Brad Paisley : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Gubbels, Jason (March 10, 2013). "Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse' (Arista Nashville)". Spin. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Perusse, Bernard (April 6, 2013). "New music review: Wheelhouse, Brad Paisley (Arista Nashville)". The Gazette. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e Dukes, Billy (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse' - Album Review". Taste of Country. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d McLennan, Scott (April 9, 2013). "Album Review: Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e Paxman, Bob (April 8, 2013). "Wheelhouse by Brad Paisley". Country Weekly. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Bjorke, Matt (April 8, 2013). "Album Review: Brad Paisley - Wheelhouse". Roughstock. Archived from the original on September 19, 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Graff, Gary (April 5, 2013). "Listening Room: "Paramore" filled with dramas, familiar influences". The Oakland Press. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Shadrick, Jason (April 2013). "Album Review: Brad Paisley - "Wheelhouse"". Premier Guitar. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Eddy, Chuck (April 15, 2013). "Brad Paisley: Wheelhouse Arista Nashville". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert (April 16, 2013). "Jonny Fritz/Brad Paisley". MSN Music. Microsoft. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reuter, Annie (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley, 'Wheelhouse': Track-By-Track Review". Billboard. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Gill, Andy (April 19, 2013). "Album review: Brad Paisley (Arista/Sony)". The Independent. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  19. ^ Metacritic (April 9, 2013). "Critic Reviews for Wheelhouse". CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  20. ^ Hermes, Will (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley Ventures Out Of Country's 'Wheelhouse'". NPR. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  21. ^ Heaton, Dave (April 9, 2013). "Brad Paisley: Wheelhouse". PopMatters. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  22. ^ Brad Paisley's 'Wheelhouse' Rolls In at No. 1 On Top Country Albums, billboard.com, April 19, 2013, Retrieved on July 15, 2013
  23. ^ Paramore Earns First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart, billboard.com, April 17, 2013, Retrieved on July 15, 2013
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2013-11-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Paisley, Brad. "Onryo (Work ID-885224500, ISWC-Not Assigned)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Work ID-885224500, ISWC-Not Assigned. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  26. ^ Paisley, Brad. "Facebook Friends (Work ID-885203722, ISWC-T9099889891)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Work ID-885203722, ISWC-T9099889891. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  27. ^ Paisley, Brad. "Get Even (Work ID-885202741, ISWC-Not Assigned)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Work ID-885202741, ISWC-Not Assigned. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  28. ^ Paisley, Brad. "Only Way She'll Stay (Work ID-885207458, ISWC-T9099916913)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Work ID-885207458, ISWC-T9099916913. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  29. ^ Paisley, Brad. "She Never Really Got Over Him (Work ID-885207459, ISWC-T9099887408)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Work ID-885207459, ISWC-T9099887408. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  30. ^ a b c Caulfield, Keith (April 17, 2013). "Paramore Earn First No. 1 Album On Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
  31. ^ "Billboard 200 Albums: Year-End top-selling albums across all genres". Billboard.
  32. ^ "Top Country Albums: 2013 Year-End Charts". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 16, 2015.