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Blake Shelton

Based on a True Story – 2013 (Warner)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Blake Shelton

After Blake Shelton won his first CMA for Best Male Vocalist, he finally began to think he was one of the artists that would influence the direction of country music. If his latest release "Based on a True Story" is any indication, the genre is headed toward records featuring super catchy songs with homogenous themes. Every number has an infectious melody with lead single potential. The trade-off for the sonic pleasantry is a 12-song collection that is short on meaningful material, but long on fun.

For instance, there is a new take on the classic Take This Job And Shove It titled I Still Got A Finger.

Shelton is a self-proclaimed redneck and the opener Boys 'Round Here presents a crass view of the stereotype; "back woods legit, don't take no s#!t, chew tobacco, spit" That isn't the end of the cussing on the album, but it's far from deserving a parental advisory warning. Shelton's appeal is his natural charisma and the honesty with which he presents himself. There are a few other songs that feature the well-worn caricatures of beer drinking and pickup trucks. The standout tracks are the ballads Sure Be Cool If You Did, a big hit, and Do You Remember, which showcase his smooth and authoritative baritone. Both bring the number one smash Who Are You When I'm Not Looking immediately to mind.

The album boasts some of country's top tunesmiths, including Rhett Atkins, Rodney Clawson, Dallas Davison and Craig Wiseman. By design it is more upbeat than "Red River Blue." Shelton said, "You know, honestly, I'm in a good place in my life. I'm happy and thankful and I want to sound like that on the record. I want to be that guy on my albums right now.

With a slew of awards, a fairy tale marriage and a great TV gig as a judge on NBC 's megahit, "The Voice," Shelton's life is smooth and stable. While it is a reflection of where he is in life, the album could have used some unpredictability.