Photographers: Kristin Barlowe; Russ Harrington; Jim Shea; Se¤or McGuire.
Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton, is a solid collection of the country singer's singles, hits, and favorites from his five studio full-lengths, and the two six-track EPs he released in the latter year. Fifteen tracks deep, it begins with the two cuts that put him on contemporary country's radar -- "Ol Red" and "Austin" -- from his self-titled debut album in 2001. The Dreamer, from 2003, is represented by the its two best cuts, "The Baby," and the classic "Playboys of the Southwestern World." There are three from 2004's Blake Shelton's Bar & Grill, including Shawn Camp's stellar "Nobody But Me," and Shelton's reading of the Conway Twitty smash "Goodbye Time." Pure BS, from 2007, is showcased by a pair of numbers, including "The More I Drink" and a third, "Home," comes from the deluxe edition of album. There's a solid version of "She Wouldn't Be Gone" from 2008's Startin' Fires to round things out. The first 11 tracks were a given, and Shelton's annotations in the booklet make a solid case for their inclusion. That said, Shelton also tacks on the title track from the Hillbilly Bone, "Six Pack," as well as "Kiss My Country Ass" from the same set. Further, "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" and the title track from the second EP are here. All four of these songs were released earlier in the calendar year, making their appearances seem redundant at best and, frankly, like a cynical money grab at worst. Oftentimes, less really is more. ~ Thom Jurek