A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read my “Red River Blue” review, click here.
Blake Shelton lets the happiness flow on “Red River Blue”
The Oklahoma country music superstar, emerging TV standout and Miranda Lambert’s new husband released his eighth studio album on Tuesday.
Blake Shelton is living the sweet life these days, and he is letting the bliss flavor his music.
For instance, the Oklahoma country crooner just released his eighth studio album “Red River Blue” on Tuesday, but the delicious lead-off track “Honey Bee” already has become his first platinum single. The sweet ballad zipped to No. 1 on the country charts in just 10 weeks, and has held strong and steady in the top spot for the past four weeks.
“‘Honey Bee’ is by far my fastest-climbing and biggest-selling single that I’ve ever had,” Shelton said in a recent phone interview from Nashville, Tenn. “I think people’ll when they get the album — hopefully, if they get the album — I think they’ll hear a lot of music that goes along with that theme of ‘Honey Bee.’ I mean, I’m a happy guy right now, just got married, and I’m enjoying life and there’s a lot of that type of music on the record.”
His new album may be titled “Red River Blue,” but life sounds downright rosy for Shelton, who in the past year has buzzed into country music’s superstar ranks. In 2010, the Tishomingo resident and Warner Bros. took a chance on a new release strategy, eschewing a traditional 10- to 12-track album in favor of two six-track “Six Paks” dropped a few months apart.
The risk paid off: The EPs spun off three smashes between them with the raucous party anthems “Hillbilly Bone” and “It’s All About Tonight” and the sensitive love song “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking.”
The Ada native also was named the Country Music Association’s male vocalist of the year, invited to join the Grand Ole Opry and released his first greatest hits album last fall.
“(It’s) not much different, to be honest with you,” Shelton said laughingly about married life. “It’s just official now is the only difference.”
But the nuptials generated still more buzz, with photos of the couple in their wedding finery — Lambert wore her mother’s wedding dress, while Shelton donned a gray suit jacket and vest with jeans — appearing on the covers of Us Weekly and Country Weekly magazines.
But they didn’t take much time for a honeymoon; instead Shelton took another gamble. He joined pop belter Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and hip-hop standout Cee Lo Green as a celebrity coach on the freshman NBC reality show “The Voice.” The series premiered April 26 and was an instant hit, attracting viewers with its blind audition concept, in which the star quartet had to evaluate singers without getting to see the competitors.
“I bet you next year they’ll make more of that because to me that was my favorite part,” said Shelton, who will return for the show’s second season, along with the other coaches.
While he initially signed on to “The Voice” for the fun of it, Shelton, 35, said mentoring the aspiring singers on his team quickly made it more than just a TV series. As the competition progressed, his fatherly side showed as he worked with his contenders, particularly shy teenager Xenia and quiet but creative finalist Dia Frampton.
“My gosh, music is hard and the music industry’s hard, and if you have somebody that’s a friend and has a connection or two that can you lead you to the next person that can lead you to the next person, of course, I want to help ‘em,” Shelton said.
“I already feel some responsibility toward their future, as small a role as I’ve played in their life so far, probably it’s still the biggest role … and I don’t want any of ‘em to feel bad about this experience. Because it should be good for all of ‘em no matter if they go home the first day or they make it to the last episode. All of ‘em should have a leg up in the industry.”
As he doled out thoughtful advice, ornery humor and free guitars, Shelton became, as the New York Times dubbed him, “the breakout star of the show.” On “The Voice,” he premiered his playful “Honey Bee” video, performed with his team members and with his current tour mate Brad Paisley and invited his new bride to duet with Frampton on the season finale.
With the surprise success of “The Voice,” the Oklahoma singer and producer Scott Hendricks worked quickly to finish and release new LP “Red River Blue,” with much of the inspiration flowing from his relationship with his wife. He was stirred to cut the second single, a cover of contemporary Christian singer Dave Barnes’ “God Gave Me You,” after an argument that could have ended their romance. And she sings along on the title track, about an Oklahoma man and his Texas woman divided by more than the Red River.
For all the album’s balladry, Shelton gets into his familiar party vibe with a few tracks, including the clever “Get Some,” co-written by Zac Maloy, former frontman of Oklahoma City band The Nixons.
“Of course, there’s some stuff that you’d expect from me, about drinking and passing out,” Shelton said. “I mean, I’m always gonna be that guy, that’ll always be part of my personality. But I think it’s a happier album than I’ve ever done before.”
Blake Shelton contending for fan-voted awards
Oklahoma country music star Blake Shelton and his hit reality TV show “The Voice” are nominated for prizes from two different fan-voted awards shows:
For the Teen Choice Awards, the Tishomingo resident is nominated for Choice Music: Male Country Artist and Choice Music: Country Single for “Honey Bee.” “The Voice” is nominated for Choice TV: Reality Competition Show.
The Teen Choice Awards will air live at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7 on Fox. Fans can vote at http://teenchoiceawards.com.
Shelton and fellow state country star Reba McEntire have received a Do Something Award nomination in the concert category for their May 25-26 Durant benefit shows that raised $500,000 for tornado relief efforts in the southeast Oklahoma town of Tushka. “The Voice” is nominated for the Do Something Reality TV Show award.
The Do Something Awards, which are devoted to boosting volunteerism among young people, will be hosted by “Glee” star Jane Lynch at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. They will be taped Aug. 14. The awards show will air at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 on VH1.
Fans can vote at www.DoSomething.VH1.com.