Brad Paisley returns less than a year after releasing the mostly instrumental album Play with a more straightforward country release, but American Saturday Night doesn’t sound rushed or tossed off. It’s another solid album from the immensely popular Paisley, who remains mainstream without giving in to the adult-contemporary slop that so many of his peers seem eager to embrace. Saturday Night doesn’t do anything that other Paisley albums haven’t done, but it’s still a well-crafted collection of songs that effortlessly mash up the traditional with the modern.
As Play demonstrated, Paisley is a crackerjack guitarist, and he showcases his abilities throughout Saturday Night, especially on the bluesy “She’s Her Own Woman” and the lightning-fast barn burner “Catch All the Fish.” Jazz-guitar great Robben Ford even lends a hand on “Oh Yeah, You’re Gone.” Paisley’s guitar doesn’t hog the spotlight, though; fiddle and steel guitar keep the proceedings grounded in classic country, with bits of blues, soul and rock mixed in.
Paisley thankfully avoids much of the lyrical cutesiness that’s marred past hits like “Online” and “Celebrity,” although both “She’s Her Own Woman” and “The Pants” are annoyingly clichéd takes on the battle of the sexes in the guise of pro-female tributes. Better are the title track, a paean to diversity, and “Welcome to the Future,” a progressive anthem in stark contrast to country’s typical conservatism. It’s that song’s version of Paisley—open-minded, vocally confident, musically adventurous yet respectful of the past—that deserves the spotlight.