With two "Six Paks," Blake Shelton is feeling as good as he's ever felt about his career.
"This has been an amazing year for me," he says. "If you would have told me when I started out that I would have six major awards [including a CMA win for Male Vocalist of the Year, a Grammy nomination, three CDs in the top 10, a sold-out headlining tour and induction into the Grand Ole Opry], I would have thought you were pulling my leg."
The "Six Paks," of course, are Blake's two most recent CDs. The first, "Hillbilly Bone," included a title track that reached No. 1 spot on the singles charts and won Blake four major awards - Vocal Event of the Year from the Academy of Country Music, Musical Event of the Year from the Country Music Awards and the Collaborative Video of the Year (with his partner in crime Trace Adkins) from CMT.
His follow-up release, "All About Tonight," debuted at No. 1 on the SoundScan Top Country Albums chart and No. 6 on Billboard's Top 200 chart, making it Shelton's highest charting record to date.
Blake has hit a sweet spot with these latest releases, drawing on the talents of songwriting buddies like Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip, Jeff Bates, Tony Mullins and Craig Wiseman. "All About Tonight" continues Blake's tradition of capturing on record both the touching and the rowdy aspects of country life.
On "All About Tonight," Blake teams up here with fiance Miranda Lambert for "Draggin' the River," a song about two young lovers with a daring plan for eloping in the face of a daddy's displeasure at the prospect of their marriage. Miranda and Hillary Scott added their writing talents to the project with "Suffocating," which features another powerful performance by Blake.
In his third release this year, Blake pulls out his first-ever greatest hits album with "Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton," which debuted in the Top 10. The release adds Blake to an elite group of artists who have charted three records in one year; among those are Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson.
Blake has visited the No. 1 spot on the country singles chart no fewer than seven times, with four of those coming in the last three years as his career has reached cruising altitude. Both "Home" from Pure BS Deluxe and "She Wouldn't Be Gone" from "Startin' Fires" hit the top, and he has not had a single that peaked outside the top 10 since 2007. "Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton" includes Blake's current single, "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking."
And while he is blazing trails with "Six Paks," setting an example other artists have begun following, Blake is re-inventing the way country's rowdier acts are connecting with fans via social networking. His tweets are irreverent, edgy, timely and hilarious, and they have become the talk of fans and industry alike. And his YouTube videos? Well, with titles like "Top Six Country Haircuts," you know you're dealing with a mind that has been twisted just right, and you'd be hard-pressed not to find them hilarious.
Blake has also had a breakthrough year on the personal front. Though he is perhaps rather rough-hewn when it comes to polite society (it did not take a lot of work to fit his personality to the plot of the "Hillbilly Bone" video), he has capped his relationship with fellow chart-topper Miranda with a conversation with her father - a moment they revisit with a great deal of hilarity on "All About Tonight's" only duet, "Draggin' the River" - and a formal proposal and ring. It was old-fashioned redneck chivalry at its finest.
Things have never looked better for the young man who left Ada, Oklahoma, at 17 for Nashville after encouragement from Mae Axton ("Heartbreak Hotel"). He met another legendary writer, Bobby Braddock ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"), who helped him develop his formidable talents. The going was slow initially, but Blake finally signed with Warner Bros. and in the wake of an impressive debut, he was on his way.
Now, with his first ACM, CMA and CMT award wins this year, the release of his greatest hits album and his induction into the Grand Ole Opry, Shelton is on his best roll yet.
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