From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Blake Shelton “Cheers, it’s Christmas.” (Warner Bros.)
It’s a testament to Blake Shelton’s considerable country charm that he manages to invoke the holiday spirit weeks before Halloween with “Cheers, it’s Christmas.”
The Oklahoma country music superstar’s first yuletide album, cannily released to coincide with the fall season of his reality TV show “The Voice” rather than the actual holiday season, gives off the vibe of a casual down-home Christmas party, with the Ada native inviting several relatives and friends to the musical festivities.
The collection goes light on the country flourishes, favoring timeless treatments of Christmas classics, plus a smattering of new songs. The Tishomingo resident’s baritone is as rich and comforting as a cup of egg nog as he goes solo on holiday standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The Christmas Song,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “White Christmas.”
Shelton and his superstar wife Miranda Lambert get the party started with a bouncy and surprisingly beguiling cover of “Jingle Bell Rock,” one of my least favorite seasonal staples. Despite his twangy charisma, Shelton is no Elvis, but his cover of “Blue Christmas” rings with good cheer thanks to impressive backing harmonies from Lambert and her Pistol Annies cohorts.
The unusual vocals of his “The Voice” Season 1 standout Xenia add cozy warmth to “Silver Bells,” while his Season 2 adviser Kelly Clarkson brings her powerful pipes and fervent passion to the carol “There’s a New Kid in Town,” which counts late, great country singer Keith Whitley among its co-writers. Shelton and crooner Michael Buble, his Season 3 adviser on the reality TV hit, effectively play off each other on a new Christmas-wrapped rendition of “Home,” the longing ballad that previously topped the charts for each of them separately.
Instrumental rock/funk group Trypta-Phunk helps Shelton get in a jazzy groove with the original “The Very Best Time of Year,” and the Nashville-based quartet also penned the country rocker “Santa’s Got a Choo Choo Train” with the singer.
One of the album’s best collaborations pairs Shelton and his big-voiced pal Reba McEntire to celebrate an “Oklahoma Christmas” in Western swing style. But the album’s sentimental highlight has got to be the sweet two-stepper “Time for Me to Come Home,” which the superstar co-wrote and recorded with his mama, Dorothy Shackleford.
After all, it is Christmas. Or at least it will be eventually.