Brad Paisley, “Moonshine in the Trunk” (Arista Nashville)
Sometimes, Paisley gets too clever for his own good. His new album has some of his best moments in years, with the bluesy, country-rock charmer “You Shouldn’t Have To” and the title track, a barnburner that reminds fans that Paisley really is an underappreciated guitar player.
However, much of “Moonshine in the Trunk” gets bogged down in cutesiness, with “Limes” showing how Paisley has never met a metaphor he didn’t like. On “Country Nation,” he still clumsily oversteps, the way he did last album with “Accidental Racist,” making you wish he had a better sounding board.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Sinead O’Connor, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss” (Nettwerk)
It has been a long time since O’Connor was both an essential artist and an expert provocateur. Her signature Prince cover, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” came out in 1990, and two years later, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live.”
With “I’m Not Bossy” — whose title is inspired by Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign — O’Connor gets a measure of her mojo back. The album cover is attention-getting, for sure. The 47-year-old Irishwoman is slimmed down in a skintight black bodysuit. She clutches an electric guitar while wearing a Louise Brooks wig on her shaven head.
Musically, the 12-song set mostly rocks much harder than O’Connor’s recent folk and reggae excursions, with aggressive tracks like “Voice of My Doctor” balanced by rewarding experiments like “James Brown,” a collaboration with Afrobeat scion Seun Kuti. O’Connor is characteristically forthright about personal drama (“You know I love to make music, but my head got wrecked by the business,” she sings on “8 Good Reasons”).
More important, she mostly succeeds in making her travails of concern to the listener as well as herself. The best example of that is “Take Me to Church,” a winning anthem in which she still seeks spiritual solace in houses of worship, “but not the ones that hurt.”
Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer