Prime Cuts: Savior's Shadow, You've Got a Way with Words, Doing It to a Country Song (with Oak Ridge Boys)
If one's honest, one would be trying to read between every syllable of each song to discern if we could piece together Blake Shelton's very public divorce with his superstar wife Miranda Lambert. And those with itching ears for juicy gossip would also be combing through every lyrical nuance to discern if they could detect Shelton's newfound romance with the Voice's Gwen Stefani. However, such a TMZ approach to Shelton's tenth studio release honestly domesticates the record. "If I'm Honest" is more than a resource for gossip fest. Though it's not Shelton's best album, it has moments of pure musical brilliance, insights, and inspiration waiting to be unfold.
Working again with long time helmsman Scott Hendericks, Hendericks and Shelton are wise not to rely too much on Shelton's own pen. Unlike many of his peers, Shelton only gets to co-pen three out of the fifteen entries here. Most of which come from Nashville's tried and true scribes such as Paul Overstreet, Craig Wiseman, Deric Ruttan, George Teren, Jessi Alexander and others. And Shelton definitely benefits from such scribal brilliance. Co-written by Paul Overstreet (who co-wrote Shelton's "Some Beach"), "Doing It to a Country Song" is certainly this album's buzz song. Featuring Gospel and country music's Oak Ridge Boys prominently, "Doing It to a Country Song" is comical, enjoyable, and so catchy that you can't help but long that the song would never end.
Current single "Savior's Shadow" is a daring move on the part of Shelton. Save for Carrie Underwood, few country artists have ever scored with a Gospel song. So, our thumbs are up when Shelton has chosen to showcase his love for the Lord with this gentle ballad. Never given in to bombast or drama, Shelton just sings his heart out on one of his most moving ballads ever. Gwen Stefani is surprisingly very good as she sings in tandem with Shelton bringing out an optimistic glean on the mid-tempo "Go Ahead and Break My Heart." "Green," which first appeared on Shelton's 2008 Starting Fires, gets reprised again. However, the song's irritating carefree attitude is better suited for Kenny Chesney than Shelton, so one is a tad surprise why Shelton feels this song needs a second go.
Country music, unlike its pop counterpart, thrives on its poetic use of words. "You've Got a Way with Words" wins as far as the play on words is concerned: "She put the her in hurt / She put the why in try / She put the S.O.B. in sober / She put the hang in hangover..." But this album is not free from duds. Album opener "Straight Outta Cold Beer" is what gives country music such a bad reputation. The song's content is as deep as the song's title. Joining Brad Paisley's "Crushin' It," "Straight Outta Cold Beer" is bro-country at its lowest. Lead single "Came Here to Forget" seeks to be cool with its elongated electric drum loop but the melody is far too thin despite the production hoopla and the electronic tweaking.
"If I'm Honest" is by no means the perfect record. With 15 songs, the album doesn't command our attention all the way through. Some songs just linger. With that said, there are still many moments of brilliance and beauty that ought to overshadow Shelton's very colourful personal life.