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Blake Shelton

Startin' Fires – 2008 (Warner)

Reviewed by C. Eric Banister

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CDs by Blake Shelton

After four albums of neo-traditional country, or what passes for such now days, Blake Shelton returned to the number one spot with a faithful cover of Michael Buble's Home, a pure pop song wrapped up for the country audience. One would think the inevitable path would be to then produce an album of slick pop-country singles. While Shelton slides closer to pop here, it's not necessarily the new fad of pop-country.

With songs like Good At Startin' Fires, She Wouldn't Be Gone, I'll Just Hold On and This Is Gonna Take All Night slide closer to the pop-country of near-forgotten 1980s stars like Eddie Rabbitt and Conway Twitty, mixing in a subtle amount of R&B. Shelton does a good job of melding his personal style with this influence.

Green and Country Strong are predictable country-themed throwaways, while Home Sweet Home, Here I Am and the "Pure BS" holdover I Don't Care fit the current country radio mold. Shelton does perhaps his best singing on the two most country-sounding songs on the album, 100 Miles and Never Lovin' You.

One of the most anticipated tracks is the closer Bare Skin Rug, written and sung with girlfriend Miranda Lambert. The blend of their voices makes you wish they held out for a stronger song in which to collaborate.

Shelton is able to pull together the pop-country of country radio and more traditional sounding songs and showcase his personality and growing talent in both making this a step forward.