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story.lead_photo.caption Album cover for Brad Paisley's "Love and War"

B Brad Paisley

Love and War

Arista Nashville

Album cover for Willie Nelson's "God’s Problem Child"
Album cover for Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions's "Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions"

Brad Paisley is that dependable voice of bro-country. All of the familiar icons are here: beer cans, pickup trucks, lip-kissing and jobs you have to get to. On his latest, a little protest music comes in to play as well. But the hidden secret is that Paisley can play the paint off a guitar and get the biggest names in the business to sing along with him on his strongest tracks.

Sir Mick Jagger helps him out with stellar vocals on "Drive of Shame," a raucous twang of a track.

John Fogerty weighs in on the album's title song, a soaring call-out to take care of America's veterans when they come home broken. "They ship you out to die for us/forget about you when you don't," the men holler, while guitar and pedal steel wail.

Love and War will burn up hot country spots on the radio dial and cement his place as the most dependable act in the business. The mix-down throughout is a tad flat, but this is meant to be heard in a bar, in a truck, on the road and on the go.

Hot tracks: "Love and War," "Drive of Shame," the searing guitar work on the bluesy "Contact High"

-- RON HARRIS,

The Associated Press

B Willie Nelson

God's Problem Child

Legacy Recordings

Willie's back, thank goodness. God's Problem Child is Willie Nelson's first album of completely new material in three years; age (he was 84 on Saturday) hasn't dulled his pen, his voice, or his simple, eloquent guitar.

Strip away the mythology and you're left with the music, its powerful mood set by a soft, direct voice that seems to have grown more expressive over the years. This is a warm, mellow work, with few surprises but many moments to savor.

Seven of the songs are co-written with longtime producer Buddy Cannon. They include Nelson's amused rebuttal of the frequent internet postings announcing his death -- "Don't bury me, I've got a show to play" -- and his succinct analysis of America's choice of Donald Trump: "We had a chance to be brilliant and we blew it again."

There is a tang of mortality. The late Leon Russell, a close friend, is heard on the title cut in what is thought to be his last recording. Tony Joe White and Jamey Johnson also are on the track. "He Won't Ever Be Gone," the final song on the album, is a heartfelt homage to the late Merle Haggard, who recorded the albums Django and Jimmie, Seashores of Old Mexico and Pancho & Lefty with Nelson.

Many of the greats from his era have fallen but Nelson's incredible run is still going strong.

Hot tracks: "God's Problem Child," "He Won't Ever Be Gone," "Still Not Dead"

-- GREGORY KATZ,

The Associated Press

B+ Father John Misty

Pure Comedy

Sub Pop

Father John Misty, Josh Tillman's alias, makes his bleak, wordy account of today's human condition sound like a long-lost Elton John album from the early '70s.

Drenched in piano and strings, Pure Comedy offers small measures of comic relief amid the misery, virtual reality and hopes of keeping aging at bay.

Tillman, who has co-written recent Beyonce and Lady Gaga songs and was formerly in Fleet Foxes, describes the travails of modern man in the First World, often making it seem like the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The centerpiece is "Leaving LA," Tillman's "10-verse, chorus-less diatribe" lasting more than 13 minutes, an autobiographical road song reflecting on everything from his fans' possible reaction to the song itself to childhood trauma.

"Ballad of the Dying Man" describes the last moments of one of those self-proclaimed guardians of the internet, forever seeking to put someone in their place, while "When the God of Love Returns There'll Be Hell to Pay" is a dim evaluation of human nature.

"In Twenty Years or So" ends the album in grand fashion, one of Tillman's more hopeful lyrics wrapped around a bit of Pink Floyd-like acoustic art-rock and a gut-wrenching coda with strings.

As you check your social media account one last time, Tillman's ballads gorgeously usher you to Armageddon. Or just another day.

Hot tracks: "In Twenty Years or So," "Ballad of the Dying Man," "Leaving LA"

-- PABLO GORONDI,

The Associated Press

A- Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions

Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions

Raisin'

Like a cross between NRBQ and They Might Be Giants, Canada's Barenaked Ladies have made some of pop's oddest, cleverest musical moves, with serious playing chops and the sort of soaring, mellifluous vocal harmonies that would make Brian Wilson envy-tinted green. Imagine then that the band saved its strangest, yet most beautiful (and challenging), ideas for its 30th anniversary, one matching harmonies with even-richer ones of old-school New York a cappella act the Persuasions.

Rarely has BNL been accused of having heavy soul, but pulling from their longtime catalog (save for the Persuasions' giddy "Good Times"), co-founder Ed Robertson and Company selected their most elastic melodies for their newly assembled collective to tackle. Along with the chipper, nearly a cappella "One Week," the funky barbershop team croons as one (and complexly) on a jazzy, piano-filled "Gonna Walk," a reggae-tinged "Don't Shuffle Me Back," and a pure poppy "Odds Are."

Hot tracks: "Good Times," "Gonna Walk," "Odds Are"

-- A.D. AMOROSI,

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Style on 05/02/2017

Print Headline: Paisley is dependable, Misty is bleakly comic

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