With 2010 being the best year of Blake’s career with three albums charting and selling over a million albums and a couple million digital singles along with joining the Grand Ole Opry and winning the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award, the artist has managed to have an even better year in 2011, the first year of his second decade as a major label country artist. Not only has Red River Blue’s lead single Honey Bee” sold a million downloads but it also became the biggest hit of Blake’s career. The year also brought his marriage to longtime girlfriend Miranda Lambert and a slot as one of the mentors of the hugely successful The Voice. All of this sets Blake up for the biggest album release of his career, since his first self-titled one in 2001.
Quite simply, Red River Blue is fantastic and showcases how Blake Shelton has managed to become a star right before our eyes, not by singing his ass off – which he still does – but through his massive charm. On this album he shows off his charm on “Get Some,” a clever song written by Craig Wiseman (“Hillbilly Bone”), Chris Thompkins and Zac Maloy that feels like a successor to “Finally Friday” as the end of the week drive-time radio station anthem. While it’s a wee-bit of a novelty tune, there’s no denying the hit potential here and come spring 2012, it’s likely gonna become a radio single. “Good Ole Boys” is sung in that charming style as is “Ready To Roll” and “Sunny In Seattle.” All of these songs feature familiar melodies with the latter tune a song that wouldn’t feel out of place on an Eddie Rabbitt or Steve Wariner album from the 1980s.
Blake previously covered a ‘pop’ song with “Home” and he returns to that well again with “God Gave Me You.” Written by Nashville-based indie pop artist Dave Barnes (Who also wrote “Until You, a song Billy Currington recently recorded), the song really feels like a cousin of “Bless The Broken Road,” but with a more pop/rock oriented melody and it’s said to be a song Blake immediately wanted to record once hearing the song on a Christian radio station (which made the song a big hit along with Adult Contemporary radio). It was announced as the follow-up single to “Honey Bee” and I have no doubts that it will be another big hit for Blake (full disclosure: I’m also a big fan of Dave Barnes music). Another strong ballad is “I’m Sorry” and it finds Blake in full Power ballad form but it’s the perfect song to have Martina McBride harmonizing in. The album closes with a seriously sad duet with Miranda Lambert, the title track “Red River Blue.”
Like Chris Young’s Neon, Red River Blue showcases a man who is really on top of his game. There’s no denying the fact that what is found on Red River Blue is a collection of songs that may be the most satisfying album of Blake Shelton’s career.