By Trevor Christian
Most weeks country fans are lucky to see one big name release. This week we got two of the biggest in Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton.
The new records will serve as a way to keep Lady Antebellum and Shelton on top of the charts, for better or worse.
Lady Antebellum: 747
Anyone who heard “Bartender” rise to the top of the charts this summer probably could have predicted that Lady Antebellum would continue to lean further toward pop and away from the crowd-pleasing country that won the group so many Grammys for albums two and three. A Grammy nod for 747 would be surprising, though not impossible.
“Bartender” and “Long Stretch of Love” start off the album with clean pop production, but the next two songs are complete mistakes. “Lie With Me” visits an overused idea without having the melody to justify doing so and “Freestyle” is a messy attempt to join in the success the country bros have undeservedly enjoyed over the last few years.
“Sounded Good at the Time” works well, though. It relies on the classic notions of innocence and lost love that Lady A has scored so many hits with before. “Down South” isn’t as clichéd as it could have been and it actually sounded decent. And even though the usually consistent Shane McAnally failed on his first two attempts on the album, “Just a Girl” is among the album’s highlights.
Blake Shelton: Bringing Back the Sunshine
Nothing is surprising about Shelton’s latest, Bringing Back the Sunshine. He stays true to his brand while producing a winning duet with the Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe. “Neon Light” looks to be the hit of the album. It’s neither particularly bad nor effective, though the guitar work is admittedly wonderful.
Sure, “A Girl” is one of the more painfully clichéd songs to be released in awhile, not that it would stand out next a couple of the other tracks like “Just South Of Heaven.” And sure, “Good Country Song” is not a particularly good country song and the next artist to write a song about listening to country radio deserves to be smacked.
But “Lonely Tonight” is an instant winner. Shelton nails the sadness and sexiness present in the lyrics while Monroe’s more organic voice fits the song better than the other Pistol Annie that Shelton is known to spend time with. The title track is a solid enough upbeat open road anthem and “I Need My Girl” is performed well, even for Shelton. Still, it’s not even close to his best work.