January 26, 2020

Blake Shelton – Fully Loaded: God’s Country – Warner Bros. Nashville

By Kristi Kates | Dec. 7, 2019

Shelton is an interesting mix of traditional good ol’ country boy and kindly coach (with bonus dad jokes) of aspiring talent on NBC’s “The Voice.” A settled relationship with pop star Gwen Stefani has also shifted Shelton’s sound to a more mainstream tone. Five new tunes are shuffled in here with some of his previously recorded tracks, with the standouts depending on which side of his musical persona you enjoy most. The most obviously likeable tunes are “God’s Country,” the playful “I’ll Name the Dogs” and his duet with Stefani, “Nobody but You.” ***
Florida Georgia Line – The Acoustic Sessions – BMX
With little fanfare, Florida Georgia Line took some of their biggest hit tunes and re-recorded them in casual, basic acoustic versions, eight songs in all that have proved to be a big hit with their listeners. The band released a couple of acoustic one-off singles early last summer; the fan response encouraged them to record more. Now, you can snag these informal takes on FGL tunes like “Stay,” “Sippin’ on Fire,” “Dirt,” “Talk You Out of It” and “Cruise,” all recorded with crisp production values and campfire-friendly vocals. ** ½

The Farm Hands – Memories of Home – Pinecastle
Having already snagged more than 30 awards for their traditional blend of bluegrass music, The Farm Hands are constantly on the road touring, all the better for having their songs be buffed to a full polish by the time they get into the studio. Their experience and longevity are in full evidence here, from opener “Stop and Smell the Roses” to the set’s closing tune, “Southern by the Grace of God.” All of the beats are firmly in-pocket and the playing is deft and expressive, with especially impressive instrumentals. ***

Luke Combs – What You See is What You Get – Sony Nashville
For more downright country country, see Combs – this is the kind of country music that pays homage to beer, trucks and women, in that order. Opener “Beer Never Broke My Heart” solidifies that approach (and that of the album title), although by track five Combs is crying in that same beer in “Moon Over Mexico.” The rest of the tunes are somewhat interchangeable, from “Blue Collar Boys” to “Even Though I’m Leaving,” but if you like the standard Nashville sound, you’ll probably be fine with this. **


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