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In the modern country era, Brad Paisley is the first frontman who's also a songwriter - and also a serious guitar hero. (Yes, there's Keith Urban, but he's an Aussie and any Nashville Dude will secretly tell you that doesn't count.)
In addition to the six-string fireworks, Paisley enjoys a reputation as a genuinely nice guy. And, as a composer, he effortlessly walks a tightrope between slightly goofy Friday night beer anthems and affecting, tender balladry.
If there's been any perceived missteps in Paisley's career, it would be the song "Accidental Racist," a duet in which he and rapper LL Cool J explore a great cultural divide symbolized by reactions to the Confederate flag. The tune was inspired after Paisley, innocently wearing a fan shirt of the band Alabama - the stars 'n' bars were part of their logo - was accused of racism. Paisley - and LL Cool J - have both maintained, quite properly, that they were trying to start a useful dialogue.
Whether you like the song's melody or its meaning, it's hard to blame either artist for the sincere effort.
- RICK KOSTER
Brad Paisley, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mohegan Sun Arena; with Chris Young, Danielle Bradbery and Dee Jay Silver; $65, $85, 1-888-664-3426, mohegansun.com.