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Hillbilly Bone ()

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Hillbilly Bone feels like a stopgap between albums for Blake Shelton, but it's not. This "Six Pak" is a budget-priced, six-track EP featuring a smash single as the title track. Pal Trace Adkins helps out on both the cut and in the video. The format is Warner Bros' attempt to deal with growing customer dissatisfaction with the traditional full-length format; they will release a second part later in 2010. As for the music, it's a formula contemporary country chartmaker: highly compressed dual lead guitars, layered acoustic guitars, good-time honky tonk lyrics, and big rocking drums. It's a good-natured dig at city folks, and you can't help but like Shelton, no matter how many cliché's he spews. A radio skit outro is the actual intro to "Kiss My Country Ass," a pure "redneck-and-proud" anthem worthy of Hank Williams, Jr. at his most ornery. Were it not for the title, it would no doubt score as a single as well. Things get a bit slower and softer with four different kinds of "love" songs that follow. The first, "You'll Always Be Beautiful," is about the real thing; it's among the more sensitive ballads on Shelton's records. "Can't Afford to Love You" is a humorous take on trying to find the right person in the wrong place. "Delilah" is a classic contemporary country betrayal number. The set's final cut, "Almost Alright," is a midtempo recovering-from-love narrative with a catchy chorus, an unusual use of steel drums, and a more complex rhythm pattern -- the idea for which was likely borrowed from Jimmy Buffett. Hillbilly Bone is a sure thing for Shelton's fans, and a risky experiment in marketing for his label. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi Hide synopsis

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