Brad Paisley can swing for the top of the charts and not lose any respect in the process. On “Wheelhouse,” the country star keeps his contemporary edge sharp with various production tweaks (loops!) and guest appearances while maintaining a grasp on traditions. “Beat This Summer” will surely be a seasonal party anthem but is counterbalanced with such quieter moments as “Tin Can on a String” (loses at love) and “The Mona Lisa” (wins at love). Per usual, the writing is sharp and the guitar playing impeccable. 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 (personal favorite: “Nothing says it’s over, man / Like a bad ’80s cover band” from the marriage-lamenting “Death of a Single Man”). Paisley’s pitch-perfect work with Charlie Daniels and LL Cool J on, respectively, songs about spousal abuse and racial tension could have been horribly clumsy, but instead balance provocation and sensitivity. (Out Tuesday)
Essential "Southern Comfort Zone"
Brad Paisley plays May 17 at the Comcast Center.