Brad Paisley's mostly instrumental Play was the guitar freak's album of 2008. The cat rips in just about any style you throw at him (dig "Turf's Up," below). But Play was something of an aberration. A country superduperstar with more than a dozen number-one singles, Paisley has a Zappa-like propensity for casually clever lyrics that serve as delivery system for scorching sounds. Country audiences like their songs topical, and Paisley is one of the few nonconservative twangers to come down the pike in a while. (Some fans didn't appreciate that his Hollywood-liberal wife, Kimberly Williams, donated a couple of thou to Obama's campaign last year.)
And amid all the thoroughly excellent picking on Paisley's latest, American Saturday Night, you'll find some damn fine songs celebrating life in these United States during the Obama administration. The video for the album's centerpiece, "Welcome to the Future," superimposes little girls talking about growing up to be architects and stuff over Paisley's the-future-is-now lyrics. And in "The Pants," Paisley goes out on a buff-feminist limb by noting that it's not who wears the pants that counts, but rather who wears the skirt.