When it comes to country music, Blake Shelton is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. He’s arguably the fan favorite out of popular television program “The Voice’s” panel of esteemed coaches, and he’s famously wed to Pistol Annies member, Miranda Lambert. On top of that, he’s received over ten separate awards since his debut in 2001 and has collaborated with multiple best-selling artists country superstar Reba McEntire, original “American Idol” Kelly Clarkson, and new age crooner Michael Bublé. He’s even produced some starlets of his own, most recently working with Cassadee Pope, winner of the third season of “The Voice”, on her latest album, set to be released sometime this year.
While it was his “Voice” inclusion paired with songs like his latest single, “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and his hit cover of “God Gave Me You” from off of “Red River Blue”, Shelton has delivered to country fans several upon several just-as-excellent album tracks that one might have not necessarily known of unless they were paying close attention to him as an actual artist, and not as just a TV personality. Some of these under-appreciated tracks are, of course, listed below.
1. “Playboys of the Southwestern World” – “Dreamer” (2003)
Blake wasn’t exactly the talk of the town just yet by the time of his second full album release in 2003, but he did have his second number-one best-selling single at the time, certifying himself as much more than just a one-hit wonder. He was just building up his faithful fan-base at this point, and aforementioned hit, “The Baby”, really helped in that sense. Still, though, he wasn’t exactly a country superstar, and that meant that multiple could-have-been hits between his first couple of albums were undoubtedly produced. Near the tip-top of this list is the intentionally self-indulgent “Playboys of the Southwestern World”, in which Shelton sings of showing Mexican girls some “real hillbillies.” At the least, it’s a track made entertaining for its not taking itself so seriously- something that would become signature of some of Shelton’s best work later on, ala Jimmy Buffet, and at most, it’s a track made memorable by its hilariously delivered lyric and vocal paired with a surprisingly lush instrumental, even incorporating a Latin flair before the song’s end. It’s mildly controversial, but a fun, solid track, nonetheless.
2. “Good Old Boy, Bad Old Boyfriend” – “Blake Shelton’s Barn and Grill” (2004)
Following up his 2003 effort would be “Blake Shelton’s Barn and Grill”, released just a year later in 2004, which went on to become his third gold-certified album in a row, further solidifying the idea that he could be a future platinum-selling superstar. “Good Old Boy, Bad Old Boyfriend” is one song on the album that didn’t necessarily gain much attention when compared to hit singles like “Some Beach” and, given, it doesn’t sound much like what a hit single would sound like. Instead, it opts for a bluesy joint that brings Shelton’s snarky, humorously aggressive side out to a greater extent as he essentially pleads to a woman to leave her “bad old boyfriend” for someone better, like him.
3. “The More I Drink” – “Pure BS” (2007)
Following in suit of “Good Old Boy, Bad Old Boyfriend” comes a real honky-tonk performance by Shelton, released on his cleverly-titled 2007 album, “Pure BS”. It isn’t exactly the epitome of song-writing, as the song’s about, purely, what he and his friends purportedly end up acting like when they’re drunk, but it’s a lighthearted effort with an incredibly catchy hook that could have still been a hit on country radio. The incorporated piano flourishes and backing violin also bring out more of the song’s playfulness than they necessarily do in some of Shelton’s other tracks. “The More I Drink” is also awarded bonus points for the rocking instrumental that closes the track. It was actually released as a single, but, in comparison to the performance of Shelton’s other works, it could have deservedly done better.
4. “Green” – “Startin’ Fires” (2008)
Shelton’s 2008 effort would see the release of his fifth number-one single in a row in the form the moving mid-tempo “She Wouldn’t Be Gone”. However, the album’s opening track, “Green”, could’ve perhaps been just as much of a hit if it were released to the radio. “Green”, in many ways, is a “typical” country track in which the voice behind it proclaims how he was essentially country before it was cool. In that stereotype, though, lies the song’s true brilliance. In it, Shelton doesn’t try to be anything else than what he actually is, as he earnestly proclaims how he was “green before green was a thing”, denoting multiple “country-esque” acts which he had taken part in since he was a child, including “playing a guitar unplugged” and having a garden in his yard full of “rutabagas, ‘taters, and beans ” It’s another lighthearted track by Shelton, but with more of a relatable message than the aforementioned couple of songs before it. Taking on the act of being green- something that is very popular in this era -was also smart on his part.
5. “Lay Low” – “Based on a True Story…” (2013)
Just recently, Blake Shelton’s latest release usurped Kacey Musgraves’s spot for the number-one best-selling country album of 2013 thus far. It’s for good reason, as “Based on a True Story…” dares to dig deeper into expansions on themes not necessarily ever specifically touched upon by Shelton in the past, who even included a bit of a hip-hop flair in the album’s opening track: “Boys ‘Round Here” featuring the Pistol Annies, amongst others. While “Based on a True Story…” is so far noted for its housing of the hit single “Sure Be Cool If You Did”, the delightfully irascible “I Still Got a Finger”, and tender “My Eyes”, featuring his own “Voice” disciple, Gwen Sebastian, amongst others, it’s “Lay Low” that offers one of the greatest sounds on the album and deserves to be recognized just as much as the aforementioned three. In fact, as far as melodies and instrumentals go, the beautifully-produced “Lay Low” may very well be the highlight of Shelton’s entire career thus far. Vocally or lyrically, it fits perfectly into the pocket of that signature keyword applicable to most all of Shelton’s works: lighthearted, yet it seemingly executes that laid-back feeling even more-so than usual. Everything about the track is wonderful, and it should be heard by any fan of country music, period.