Red River Blue (Bonus Tracks Edition)
For country singer Blake Shelton, everything seemed to come together at just the right time for 2011’s Red River Blue. Despite the (relatively) lagging commercial performance of 2008’s Startin’ Fires, Shelton had plenty to celebrate in the time running up to Red River Blue: He’d been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, won Male Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Awards, and released his first greatest-hits record in late 2010. He then joined the cast of The Voice as a judge and married country star Miranda Lambert in early 2011. Everything was coming up Shelton; the stage was set for the singer’s sixth studio album to become a major success. It’s probably no big surprise that it did, then. It helped, too, that Shelton’s musical chops had been honed to an even finer point by then. The success of breezy lead single “Honey Bee” inspired a quick finish to the record—only two weeks to lock down an entire unfinished half—but, thanks in large part to Shelton’s professionalism and the golden touch of primary producer Scott Hendricks, Red River Blue sounds cohesive and on-the-money. The big, romantic feelings are rendered in rousing pop, as on the soulful “God Gave Me You” and the soaring “I’m Sorry,” and Shelton lays into symphonic grandeur on “Over.” But there’s a lot here for the country fans, too, as “Ready To Roll” finds the singer kicking back, and on “Good Ole Boys,” he bemoans the death of chivalry and wonders where all the cowboys went. There’s a confidence to Shelton’s work on Red River Blue that is indicative of the successes that surrounded its release. Aptly, he offers up one of his most vulnerable performances with the title track—a ballad invoking his home state’s side of the Red River—where his vocals intertwine gently with Lambert’s and show a particularly soft side of the singer.