Review : Blake Shelton - Hillbilly Bone
lake Shelton's new six-song album, "Hillbilly Bone," may be a marketing and sales experiment by Warner Bros. Records, but fans of the Oklahoman artist won't be disappointed. The title-track lead single (featuring Trace Adkins) is a rollicking, redneck celebration of all things stereotypically Southern, including F-150s, blue jeans and fiddles. And although "Kiss My Country Ass," which conjures Hank Williams Jr. and honky-tonks, won't go down as the most original song in history, it's still a fun listen. On "Almost Alright," Shelton channels the carefree island feel of Jimmy Buffett while singing about getting over a lover with the help of a couple of beers. The album's highlight is "Delilah," inspired by his girlfriend Miranda Lambert's dog of the same name.-Ken Tucker...full text
Ew“Nobody wants to be a nobody,” sings Danny Gokey on his post-Idol debut, and that hunger for attention no doubt explains why the growly gospel guy submits to a mall-country makeover here. Yet if My Best Days feels a little impersonal, it’s also stocked with crafty contributions from some of Nashville’s most dependable song doctors, including the guys of Lady Antebellum, whose “It’s Only” mines a dreamy melancholy well suited to Gokey’s rough-honey vocals. Another highlight: “I Still Believe,” a chewy bit of cheeseball inspiration by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. B- —Mikael Wood
Download These: piano-laced ballad “It’s Only”; hard-grooving “Be Somebody”
Country (Warner Bros)
Blake Shelton’s ridiculously inappropriate Twitter persona has apparently liberated him from all aspects of the Nashville behavior model. Though he may play the buffoonish hick online (recent sample tweet: “Am I famous enough to sell this tooth I just spit out?”), the choice to buck traditional album cycles with this solid if unspectacular six-song EP is straight-up market savvy. Tragic but true: Country radio just wants singles. Why fuss with all the filler? B —Whitney Pastorek
Download These: ballad for a blackout drunk “You’ll Always Be Beautiful”; so over-the-top-you’ll-pray-it’s-satirical redneck anthem “Kiss My Country Ass”
Country (Mercury Nashville)
First three thoughts upon listening to Corbin’s debut: 1) He sounds like George Strait. 2) He is singing old-school songs, full of wit and heart. 3) It sounds effortless. Ignore the fact that someone decided to lead with “A Little More Country Than That,” the latest in a too-long line of singles asserting the down-home legitimacy of their respective artists. Dig deeper for gems like “This Far From Memphis” (as in “I didn’t know the blues ever got”), then sit back and remember why you fell in love with country music in the first place. B+ —W.P.
Download These: classic two-stepper “The Way Love Looks”; the creative heartbreak of “This Far From Memphis”...full text
SlantmagazineYou know you're in trouble when your marketing strategy is the most interesting thing about your new album, but that's precisely the conundrum facing country star Blake Shelton on Hillbilly Bone. Pitched to Shelton by the execs at his label, the gimmick here is that Hillbilly Bone is really just a six-song EP that has been billed as a proper studio album and not the stop-gap recording that an EP typically represents in an artist's catalogue. Shelton, who almost single-handedly made Twitter relevant to the country music demographic with his sharp observations and quick wit, seems a logical choice for testing whether or not a micro-scale approach is a viable route to distributing albums in a singles-driven market.
While the commercial results of that risk remain to be seen, Hillbilly Bone doesn't exactly pay off as an artistic risk for Shelton. An EP simply isn't a format that lends itself to sub-par material, and far too great a percentage of these songs just aren't up to snuff. The lead single and title track, on which Shelton is joined by Trace Adkins, earns some points for putting a more inclusive spin on its otherwise clichéd us-versus-them cultural conflict, but its hook is awkwardly structured and the engineering provides another example of how country albums have been losing the "loudness war" of late. "Kiss My Country Ass" fares even worse in that regard, with its aggressive electric guitars compressed and clipped at the top of their sonic range; the song would sound awful even if it weren't just another in an endless series of songs that reduce to swinging-dick rural posturing. It's all about reinforcing ugly stereotypes and creating class conflicts that undermine the message of the set's title cut and the good-naturedness of Shelton's sense of humor.
It's that humor that salvages "Can't Afford to Love You" and "Almost Alright," both of which throw in a couple of unexpected observations and turns of phrase, but which are otherwise forgettable. Only "You'll Always Be Beautiful" interjects its humor in an unexpected context, as Shelton serenades his love after a night of hard drinking leaves her passed out in the car and her makeup smeared all over her pillowcase. That the song wrings some genuine pathos from its setup is impressive, and it's among the best songs that the singer has yet recorded. "Delilah," Shelton's lone writing credit on the record, demonstrates a similar level of complexity, toying with the conventions of the standard country betrayal trope....full text
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