Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blake Shelton "Bringing Back The Sunshine" Album Review

     Blake Shelton had big promises with his new album Bringing Back The Sunshine.  Blake enticed his fans detractors with hints and tidbits about an album that would be a return to a country sound, with more heartfelt lyrics and more traditional arrangements.  Blake has been deeply entrenched in the bro-country vs. traditional country battleground, as he not only released the awful "Boys 'Round Here", he also made comments that referred traditional country fans as "old farts" and "jackasses".  He also has had countless public feuds on Twitter with anyone who dared to question his musical decisions.  All of that had but Blake on a lot of people's you-know-what list.  One solid album of real country would completely change that negative backlash.  Bringing Back The Sunshine doesn't fulfill all the hype that Blake let on, but that doesn't mean this is a bad album.

      "Bringing Back The Sunshine" is a pretty decent opening song.  The backing track isn't particularly country, but it is very reminiscent of The Allman Brothers or other southern rock bands, which isn't a bad thing.  I always thought Blake had a grit to his voice and enough swagger to be a decent southern rock artist if his interests went in that direction.  In this song, they do, and while southern rock isn't classic country, it is good music and it isn't bro-country, so that's a win.   From there, we have "Neon Light", which, as I already mentioned, is a decent song.  I could do without the awful hip-hop backing track, but the rest of the arrangement and the lyrics are pretty solid as far as mainstream goes.  The next song "Lonely Tonight" has fantastic harmonies from Ashely Monroe, who is one of my favorite artists, and sounds pretty good.  It is a very big, loud song, but it doesn't stray too far from its country roots.

     From there, the album takes a nose dive."Gonna" is one of the worst songs on the album, it is pure drivel, and it will probably be the next single because that seems to be the way it works these days.   Granted, "Gonna" isn't as bad or rage-producing as some of Luke Bryan or Florida-Georgia Line's crap, but on an album touted as traditional and that showed some promise in the opening tracks, this song is totally out of place.  "A Girl" isn't near as bad, but it is very forgettable.  Nothing to get angry about, nothing to go crazy over.  "Sangria" is an odd song, and to be completely honest, I'm not sure how I really feel about it.  I certainly don't like it, but I can't decide if it is forgettable or bad.  I guess that's a good thing in a sense, but I'm being honest.  It's a very explicit song and dirty, but still, the melody isn't bad.  Take everything I said about "Gonna" and repeat it for "Buzzin'".  It sounds like a re-make of "Pontoon".  Yup.  Really.  I'm good.  "Just South of Heaven" just has to be a Luke Bryan reject.  It has all the things a suburban white girl wants in her fantasy: rivers, trucks, and teen love.  Yawn.  We've heard this 10,00 times in the past few years.

     "I Need My Girl" brings things back to life, as it is a pretty solid love ballad.  Nothing to write home about, but it feels honest and Blake sings his face off in it.  "Good Country Song" is either terrible or fantastic depending on your point of view.  If you simply listen and enjoy it, it is the best song on the album.  If you look at the lyrics and juxtapose them with every other statement that has come out of Blake's mouth the past few years, it looks like hypocritical pandering.  I found myself actually enjoying this song.  I do think that Blake has an appreciation for real country music, and it shows in this song.  I think his dumb comments come from him also having an appreciation for making money, and his bread-winner is being frank and being a smart-ass.  That bites him sometimes.  Either way, "Good Country Song" is a good country song, complete with steel guitar and reminiscent lyrics.  "Anyone Else" is a sad number that Blake gets really raw and emotional on.  This is the kind of stuff I expected to him to cover over the entire album.  It sounds like it hits pretty close to home, but I think that is a testament to the sincerity with which Blake approaches the singing.  "Anyone Else" is a solid song.  "Just Gettin' Started" might seem like a bro-country anthem at first, but in reality it has a lot more in common with the Clint Black/MarkChesnutt/Tracy Byrd honky-tonkers of the 1990's than Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean.  The lyrics have more than just partying, they show an appreciation for the working man, and the arrangement is fully of twangy guitars and fiddle.  It isn't an award winner, but it is a fun song that isn't mind-numbingly stupid, so I like it.

     The key to this entire album is perspective.  Sure, what I'd love to see is all the bros thrown in a jacked-up truck and driven out to the woods somewhere to live out the endless party in their songs in solitude while Sturgill Simpson, The Turnpike Troubadours, and Holly Williams become the new superstars and standard-bearers of country music.  But that isn't going to happen overnight.  That is the long term goal.  The short term goal is for country music to be respectable again and stop being an embarrassing parody of itself.  Bringing Back The Sunshine does that.  Much like Tim McGraw's Sundown Heaven Town, this is an album that has more good songs than bad, and has a good balance of country elements to make it at least fit in with the great songs of the genre that came before them.  That is another victory in my book.  Bringing Back The Sunshine isn't exactly what Blake promised, but it is still decent and is a major improvement from his last album.

Standout Tracks: "Bringing Back The Sunshine", "Neon Light", "Lonely Tonight", "Good Country Song", "Anyone Else"

"Neon Light"

 "Bringing Back The Sunshine"

"Lonely Tonight" featuring Ashley Monroe

 "Anyone Else"

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