Brad Paisley is so quintessentially a country star, it's almost as if he has been engineered by twang-happy research scientists or tobacco-chewing aliens to encapsulate everything great about the genre. He's a sentimentalist, a rocker, a traditionalist, a singer of gospel and goofy novelty songs, a proponent of family and fleshly values, and a flame-shooting Telecaster hero. If his 15-song event albums were the sum total of country music, it would still be a pretty well-developed medium.
'You're not supposed to say the word cancer in a song/And telling folks Jesus is the answer can rub 'em wrong,'' he announces on the title track from his latest, This Is Country Music (out May 24) and he'll get around to doing both. But Paisley allows the disease- or God-averse plenty of other options in the variety hour that follows. Guests include Carrie Underwood, as his flame-rekindling call-and-response partner on ''Remind Me,'' and no less than Clint Eastwood, who does steely lead whistling on the instrumental Western homage ''Eastwood.''
Shameless laughs come via surf-guitar showcase ''Working on a Tan,'' an ode to slacker hotties, and backwoods fashion statement ''Camouflage'' (''Being invisible to a whitetail is irresistible to a redneck girl''). While Paisley has a tendency to be too clever when he's trying to be emotional, there are honest tearjerkers here, like the post-divorce lament ''I Do Now.'' The whole record plays like a best-of sampler not just for Paisley, but for the history of the art form. A
Be the Lake, a girl-watching anthem, at Last.fm
Eastwood, a showcase for Clint's whistle