The more Blake Shelton rises in stature, the more he parades his swaggering, mischievous personality.
His high-profile role as a judge on NBC's “The Voice” has provided a platform for the entertainingly outspoken side of this tall, drawling country boy from Oklahoma. Now Shelton is creating music as brash as he is, fully integrating his colorful character into his songs.
Before a career resurgence that included landing as a coach on “The Voice,” Shelton spent years struggling to establish a consistent presence on the country music charts, never creating a recognizable style of his own. “Based On A True Story” reveals how much has changed.
The album opens with a hip-hop treatment of the word “redneck,” traversing Shelton's cross-interests in the rural and the urban, before blasting into the guitar-driven “Boys 'Round Here,” about back-country folk who rock out in the cabs of their pickups.
The tune sets the tone for Shelton's focus on boisterous country rock and emotional ballads that show off his expressive vocals as the Country Music Association entertainer of the year rises to his newfound superstar status with a lighthearted but rollicking album that pushes boundaries in all the right places.
•Thompson Square, “Just Feels Good”
The husband-wife duo Thompson Square celebrates its success and its upbeat love story on their second album, “Just Feels Good.”
Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who played Feb. 21 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, instantly drew attention by presenting soulful pop-country songs with a hip, sophisticated flair. Their freshness was rewarded with duo of the year honors from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music — a rare honor for a new act.
“Just Feels Good” maintains their peppy, playful style, with the high-speed wordplay of “Here We Go Again” and the sweet sentiment of “That's So Me And You” capturing their charisma and flirty, fun connection.
Oddly, the power-ballad first single, “If I Didn't Have You,” is one of the album's few forgettable songs. Otherwise, most of “Just Feels Good” proves why the duo ranks among the fastest-rising newcomers in country music.