Fully Loaded: God's Country
Nearly two decades beyond his first chart-topper, 2001’s “Austin,” Blake Shelton seems entirely unfazed by how much the musical landscape has changed around him. While other major country hitmakers are still investing energy in standard albums, he happily switched his focus to stand-alone songs, official singles and low-key digital releases alike, and saw the approach pay off with this year’s haunting, hard-rocking, award-nominated ode to rural pride “God’s Country.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt his popularity that his TV gig and avid tweeting keep his affability in the spotlight. The 12-track collection Fully Loaded: God's Country reflects Shelton’s awareness of where he is in his career: Half a dozen of the tunes on it hit the top 10 between 2016 and 2018, including the playful vision of down-home domesticity “I’ll Name the Dogs.” The rest, including the title track, haven’t appeared on any of his previous albums, but suggest the ease with which he juggles multiple highly visible roles. “Nobody But You,” a vigorous power ballad vowing devotion, is the second song on which he’s featured Gwen Stefani during their time as a genre-bridging Hollywood power couple. Likewise, “Hell Right,” a swaggeringly goofy sung-spoken ode to country-style partying with guest vocals from Trace Adkins, echoes the collaborative hit the two veteran stars had a decade earlier, “Hillbilly Bone,” but the new track leans into glossy, contemporary production effects. “Tequila Sheila” is a droll and rowdy cover of a 1980 Bobby Bare cut that Shelton—an avid fan of many erstwhile country hitmakers—had long admired and released when he announced a tour with some of his heroes.