Brad Paisley is often praised for his "edgy" take on country, which usually just means throwing fiddles and pedal steel on crossover-ready pop tracks. His talents as a guitarist and songwriter, generous though they may be, stay comfortably inside the box.

Brad Paisley is often praised for his "edgy" take on country, which usually just means throwing fiddles and pedal steel on crossover-ready pop tracks. His talents as a guitarist and songwriter, generous though they may be, stay comfortably inside the box.

Paisley really sticks his neck out on the lyrics sheet. His latest, American Saturday Night, espouses progressive ideals throughout, particularly on "Welcome to the Future," which sneaks a tribute to the civil rights movement into a tune about wondrous technological advances. Remembering a black high school buddy, he sings: "They burned a cross in his front yard for asking out the Homecoming queen."

Cynics might chide Paisley for suggesting the battle has been won, but if racism still thrives, it's all the more admirable to see one of Nashville's finest stumping for equality.

-Chris DeVille