- Cullman, Alabama


April 4, 2013

MUSIC REVIEW: The Band Perry, Brad Paisley are pushing country in new directions (WITH VIDEOS)

On its second full-length album, "Pioneer," the Band Perry acts as if  boundaries don't exist at all. The trio — two brothers and a sister from Greeneville, Tenn., whose self-titled 2010 debut was a platinum-plus behemoth — appreciates bluegrass, shiny choruses and Queen, and sees no reason why those influences can't peacefully coexist. While Brad Paisley cloaks his cosmopolitan musings on nationalism and multiculturalism in traditional country clothing (read below), the Band Perry dresses up traditional country sentiments in the cosmopolitan trappings of glam rock and emo-pop. In the process,the group has made what will likely be one of the signal country albums of 2013.

Maybe it's the continuing influence of Taylor Swift's dubstep-dropping, boundary-eroding "Red," but "Pioneer" never seems like anything less than a traditional country disc, no matter how far afield it goes. "Forever Mine Nevermind," written with Paisley, begins as cast-off Queen (not the risque Queen of, say, "Fat Bottomed Girls," but Queen scrubbed clean, as if "Glee" got to it first) before ending as a brisk emo-country anthem. The title track, a simple, lovely folk ballad with its Instagram filter set to "Nashville," is an ode to adventurousness that isn't the slightest bit adventurous itself. "Mother Like Mine" is the world's most self-satisfied Mother's Day card set to a forgettable beat, but who can argue with songs about mothers?

Forged in the same toothy-blond-diva generator that birthed Swift and Carrie Underwood, frontwoman Kimberly Perry carries the album's lesser songs and makes a meal of its great ones, like the recent hit "Better Dig Two." It's the only track to merge the group's three obsessions — the preservation of female virtue, the lure of faux-old-timey bluegrass and the Brontean glamour of an early death. The song's protagonist, who was able to wear white when she got married, just so you know, loves her husband enough to want to die when her marriage does. In fact, she insists: "If that ring gets a little too tight/ You might as well read me my last rites." ("And yours, too" goes the subtext.)

An almost-murder ballad with an arrangement that evokes a haunted house version of Underwood's "Undo It," its protestations of marital devotion are both creepy and sweet, offering a rare moment of ambiguity and shadow on an album that is otherwise fluorescently lit.

Text Only