Blake Shelton

The Dreamer

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Rough, rawboned energy drives Blake Shelton's sophomore release, but it's not quite enough to distract from its brevity or the fact that the young singer would benefit from a little more seasoning. His vocal technique is fine, and his willingness to tackle a lyric is admirable; the problem lies more with the material, which represents the doldrum state of songwriting in music city. The story told by "The Baby," for instance, has been told more than a few times: basically it's "My mom is dead." But whether presented tongue-in-cheek, as in the Commander Cody trucker lament "Mama Hated Diesels," or as poetry, which Merle Haggard achieves in "Mama Tried," there's something less formulaic in the older tunes. The same applies throughout The Dreamer, which explains why Shelton is at his strongest on the least-ambitious material, such as "Playboys of the Southwestern World," a rowdy collision of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "American Pie," sung with a mischievous twist that suggests, at times, Bruce Springsteen with a corn liquor hangover. None of the drawbacks of The Dreamer suggest any reason for pessimism about Shelton's prospects; there's nothing here that an escape from music row wouldn't cure.

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