Based on a True Story... by Blake Shelton
Since becoming a bona fide TV star, Blake Shelton’s time has been stretched to the max. Unfortunately, you can’t help but hear a little of that when listening to his latest album, Based on a True Story. While some of the project’s dozen tracks, like the beautiful ballad “Do You Remember” and the refreshingly ’70s-sounding “Lay Low,” which calls to mind Gary Stewart, are of Blake’s caliber, others feel rushed, as if The Voice coach hurriedly picked songs to record in Nashville before he had to catch his flight back to L.A. After penning the CMA Song of the Year “Over You” with wife Miranda Lambert for her Four the Record album, it would have been interesting to see what he might have come up with for his own.
Album opener “Boys ’Round Here,” featuring catcalls from Pistol Annies, revisits the lyrical red dirt roads we’ve traveled many times before and lays claim to a staccato rap about dip: chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit. (Ironically, while the titular “boys” boast about not knowing how to do the urban dance “The Dougie,” the song is structured around a hip-hop beat.) “Small Town Big Time,” while full of fun, swagger and swerve, employs Auto-Tune for an aesthetic effect that isn’t necessary for the reigning CMA Male Vocalist. And “Country on the Radio” asks in its first line, You ever wonder why country songs say the same old thing? It’s a clever acknowledgment of the elephant in the writing room, but ultimately it’s just another chance for an artist to sing about homemade wine and a tailgate.
But Based on a True Story does have truly inspired moments. Blake finally finds the country kiss-off he’s been searching for since, well, “Kiss My Country Ass” with the bawdy “I Still Got a Finger,” the 21st-century equivalent of Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It.” Likewise, “Ten Times Crazier” is a singalong deserving of its status as the name of Blake’s upcoming tour. But it’s on the ballads, “Mine Would Be You” and the oft-recorded hunting ode “Granddaddy’s Gun,” among them, where Blake excels and the avowed smart aleck is found with his heart on his denim sleeve.