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Originally published April 9, 2013 at 8:02 AM | Page modified April 9, 2013 at 8:01 AM

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Brad Paisley gives country the mainstream treatment

New CDs released Tuesday, April 9, include Brad Paisley’s elaborately produced “Wheelhouse”; Volbeat’s “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies”; “Overgrown,” by James Blake; and Stonesour’s “House of Gold & Bones Part 2.”

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Brad Paisley, ‘Wheelhouse’ (Sony Nashville/Arista)

“Wheelhouse,” Brad Paisley’s eighth studio album, is the country superstar’s most mainstream effort. Always a favorite of traditionalists, Paisley cultivates a distinctly modern sound meant to fill arenas.

While the busy production — which Paisley helmed himself for the first time — features subtle digital effects and booming choirs that might irritate some, his songwriting chops and guitar heroics remain well intact.

The prerequisite party tunes, such as “Beat This Summer” and “Outstanding In Our Field,” are accounted for, as well as Paisley’s trademark humor. So is last year’s hit single “Southern Comfort Zone,” a Valentine to the South that kicks off this 17-track marathon.

As “Wheelhouse”comes to a close, Paisley reaffirms his place as a citizen of the 21st century with “Accidental Racist,” in which he ruminates on race relations and the confederate flag with a little help from LL Cool J. It’s a song that could have sounded trite or forced but instead becomes a standout track thanks to Paisley’s earnest delivery and thoughtful lyrics.

“Wheelhouse” is a master’s course on embracing a more contemporary approach, but perhaps Paisley’s biggest accomplishment is that it never feels like he is delivering a lecture.

Other new releases

Volbeat, “Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies” (Universal Republic)

Stonesour, “House of Gold & Bones Part 2” (Roadrunner)

James Blake, “Overgrown” (Universal Republic)

Owen R. Smith, Special to The Seattle Times

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