From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Blake Shelton “Startin’ Fires” (Warner Bros. Records)
Whether paying tribute to country living, cracking musical jokes or crooning about romance and heartbreak, Ada native Blake Shelton’s rich baritone and earnest delivery heat up “Startin’ Fires.”
The Tishomingo resident celebrates his move from Nashville, Tenn., back to Oklahoma on the soaring “Home Sweet Home” and pays tribute hard-working “cowboys, plowboys (and) good-hearted women” on the toe-tapping “Country Strong.” He declares “I was green before green was a thing” on the funny down-home anthem “Green.”
He and girlfriend Miranda Lambert hilariously defy expectations for a country duet with the sly “Bare Skin Rug,” which matches the sonic trappings of a pretty ballad with goofy lyrics they penned about young hillbillies finding love.
Their novelty duet notwithstanding, Shelton lives up to his reputation as a great country balladeer on his fifth studio album. He strikes the right balance between playful and sexy on “Good at Startin’ Fires” and “This Is Gonna Take All Night.” He strums heartstrings with “Here I Am,” a celebration of unexpected love he co-wrote with Dean Dillon, and effectively tells a tale of lost love with a twist ending on “I Don’t Care.”
But Shelton’s passionate outpouring of desperation and regret on “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” makes the lead single the sizzling highlight of “Startin’ Fires.”