Brad Paisley continues his slow climb toward superstar status, and if Mud on the Tires (Arista) is any indication, he's nearly there. His third album is a bit heavy on goofiness (one "Celebrity" is enough) but in these days, a few good laughs aren't such a bad thing. When he's not joking about fame or romantic foibles, Paisley delivers some mighty fine country music, due in part to the excellent musicianship here.
In addition to the obvious hit singles (such as the title track), Paisley
turns in an astonishing duet with Alison Krauss on "Whiskey Lullaby." Sadly, it may never make it to radio -- with whiskey,
suicide and Krauss all prominently featured -- but it's this sort of risk taking that hints at Paisley's future, and it's
bright. Krauss' sidekicks Ron Block, Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski also make a few appearances, as do Bill Anderson, Jimmy
Dickens, Vince Gill, George Jones, super guitarist Redd Volkaert and even the Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi).
LeDoux celebrates his latest studio album, Horsepower (Capitol), with a big show at Cheyenne Frontier Days. That's
appropriate, considering he's still the leading cowboy country singer. The imagery of a widower's Western winter in "The Buffalo
Grass" brings a chill, even in a Southern summer. All in all, it's refreshing to hear someone sing about prairies, horses
and the rodeo life. A remake of Doug Kershaw's "Pass My Hat," with Jo-El Sonnier, closes the album.
(Lyric Street) pretty much defines the New Country movement, with happy songs aplenty (such as "99.9% Sure") and feisty fiddles
firing away. There's even the requisite song about how much he can love you. Still, McComas occasionally offers something
with sincerity, like "Sixteen Again" or "Baby Let Me Be Your Man." Mostly though, he's eerily similar to Andy Griggs, Aaron
Lines, Mark Wills and so on. If you like those singers, then you'll probably like this, too.
The Charlie Daniels Band
offers an outspoken and patriotic album, Freedom and Justice for All (Audium/Blue Hat.) He reprises "In America," "American
Farmer" and "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag." And for those still wondering what the world needs, it's not love. (Sorry Wynonna
and Burt Bacharach.) It's ... "A Few More Rednecks." At least according to this album, which begins with a recitation of "My
Beautiful America" and concludes with the instrumental "Star-Spangled Banner."
Daniels has also issued a book of very
brief soapbox essays called Ain't No Rag: Freedom, Family, and the Flag (Regnery). Here's one passage from "The Unmovable
Language Barrier," about teaching additional languages in school: "Is being able to speak Spanish or Korean going to help
that child in the real world? Not unless they go back to Mexico or Korea and if they wanted to do that, what are they doing
here in the first place?" If that sounds like freedom to you, this is your book.
Cory Morrow ranks toward the top of
Texas' most popular country singers, and he's known there for his catchphrase "F--- Nashville." His CD/DVD combo Full Exposure
Live (Write On) finds Morrow singing about drinking, Texas and maybe a few other things. The screaming fans who populate
the background seem to enjoy it. The package includes three new studio recordings produced by Ray Kennedy, and Pat Green turns
up for the duet "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?"
Also new: Texas singer TC Taylor's Dancehall Revival (Palo
Duro) and spirited bluesman Chris Smither's Train Home (Hightone).