Blake Shelton 'Red River Blues' Humphead/Warner Bros.

Currently making waves in Music City Shelton consolidates his position with this new album. He's not a writer and so relies on his voice to deliver these songs which often make reference to Conway and Lorreta, to beer, to good ole boys and to laid back country tunes whilst sounding like country music tends to sound these days. In other words crafted songs, big sounds and solid vocals that are perfect for these cross-over styled songs. Shelton is managed by Starstruck Management and his career has gone from strength to strength. He's married to Miranda Lambert so life is good for this good ole boy right now. Scott Hendricks is spot on for the market they're aiming for and you can see the appeal of these friendly songs. As each new wave of singers emerges on a major label the sound moves away from what many knew and loved as country music. This is country music for a different time and age and Blake Shelton does what he does very well and it will doubtless hit the spot for many but for others they'll wonder where the steel and fiddle is in the mix. This is a well produced and played, positive album that, on occasion, like on Good Ole Boys shows that when Shelton get that bit closer to the source and you can hear the guitar twang you see that Shelton could one day deliver something closer to a Conway Twitty classic. But then, in truth, it could well be that Blake Shelton is the Conway Twitty of the future as Conway certainly changed his style to suit the times, so maybe he already has and I'm just missing the point.

'Loaded: The Best Of Blake Shelton' HumpHead

Another collection of songs gather together in a hits package. This one has sleeve notes from Shelton and gives some perspective to the song choices. At the heart is Shelton who again has a voice that has fits with the requirements for country radio. He has a good voice but here there is a sense that everything has been polished to perfection which means he lacks some grit but has delivered. Production has been handled by some veteran producers who know the real thing when they hear it including Bobby Braddock, Brent Rowan and Scott Hendricks. A song like Baby has orchestration and was a number one song and is in complete contrast with Playboys Of The Southwestern World which is a "let's go to Mexico" type of fun song that Shelton didn't do well at radio but was an in concert favourite and you can see why. Equally aimed at the fun side of thinks is the Paul Overstreet co-write Some Beach which has some of that Jimmy Buffett vibe beloved of Nashville lately. Totally different is his version of a song he saw Conway Twitty do on tv. It's a big ballad and he gives it a big performance. Another ballad with a emotional vocal is Don't Make Me, his cover of Home, a Michael Bublé song continues the ballad theme in a orchestrated songs that a lot less country than anything here but shows Shelton's vocal skills. Again contrasting with the good ol' boy fun time attitude of Hillbilly Bone, a duet with Trace Adkins, and Kiss My Country Ass. The album closes with Who Are You When I'm Not Looking which sees Shelton in a George Strait mode and rounds off a useful collection for new fans and those who like their country music slick and a with a little more soul than they might find else where when they want to get loaded.