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Album review: Blake Shelton, "Hillbilly Bone"

By Allison Stewart

The most interesting song on Blake Shelton's engaging new disc is hardly a song at all, more like a checklist of country cliches. The first 90 seconds of "Kiss My Country Ass" reference the rebel flag, coon dogs, beer, pickup trucks, Dale Earnhardt, Hank Jr., the American flag and guns - which, in case you were wondering, Shelton will not hesitate to pick up in defense of the homeland.

(He's really, really country, after the jump.)

It's like a redneck Mad Lib, and as with several songs on "Hillbilly Bone," it labors aggressively to establish Shelton's country bona fides while being unnecessarily defensive at the same time: In the age of Taylor Swift, who exactly is saying that being country is a bad thing? Simon Cowell? Somebody from the government?

Shelton is one of country's most reliable genre players. He lacks the extra charisma gene necessary for Kenny Chesney-style crossover stardom, but he's powerfully good at the twin pillars of basic country: honky-tonk stomps (such as the title track, a duet with Trace Adkins) and tears-in-my-Bud ballads (such as "You'll Always Be Beautiful," a very distant cousin of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are").

"Hillbilly Bone" is just six songs long, the first of two EPs Shelton is scheduled to release this year as part of the new "6 Pak" series, a recessionary experiment started by his record company in lieu of simply hanging a "We give up completely" sign on its door. Dubiously billed as fan-friendly, "6 Paks" may not work for every artist, but for someone such as Shelton, a solid performer from whom a little goes a long way, they may be just right.

Recommended tracks: "Delilah," "Almost Alright"

By David Malitz  |  March 2, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Blake Shelton  
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