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'Accidental Racist' shows Brad Paisley's not playing it safe

Brad Paisley's new album, 'Wheelhouse,' includes a song titled 'Accidental Racist.' 'Accidental Racist' follows a man with a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt with a Confederate flag who is confronted by a Starbucks clerk about his choice in attire.

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'Accidental Racist' is one of the songs appearing on Brad Paisley (pictured)'s new album 'Wheelhouse.'

Delbridge Langdon Jr./The Grand Rapids Press/AP

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The title of Brad Paisley's new album, "Wheelhouse," could imply the country music star is sticking with what he does best. Indeed, the 17-song album — the first in which he's listed as sole producer — presents several songs extending his reputation for clever, sometimes comic, twists on love ("Death of a Married Man"), modern life ("Beat This Summer") and sentimental romanticism ("I Can't Change the World").

But Paisley also has a history of taking chances, and that's never been truer than on his new album. The song "Accidental Racist" opens with a guy being confronted by a Starbucks clerk for wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt that features a Confederate flag. The lyrics go on to explore the tension between "Southern pride and Southern blame," complete with a rap break by LL Cool J.

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"Southern Comfort Zone" similarly confronts the regionalism that leads some Southerners — and many current country singers — to boast about life in the rural South. Paisley loves where he's from, he sings, but acknowledges that seeing the world has opened his mind to the perspective of others in a positive way.

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Yes, Paisley knows what he does well. But "Wheelhouse" proves he's not content with playing it safe.