Welcome to a special all-country edition of Extended Play, the occasional feature here on the Music Mix where we rescue reviews that wouldn’t fit in the magazine, and release them back into the wild. It’s like a wildlife safari, but on the internet. And with record reviews instead of giraffes. Also, you don’t have to ride in a jeep to enjoy it. It’s really not like a safari at all.
This week: Danny Gokey, My Best Days; Blake Shelton, Hillbilly Bone; Easton Corbin, Easton Corbin.
My Best Days
Country (19/RCA Nashville)
“Nobody wants to be a nobody,” sings Danny Gokey on his post-Idol debut, and that hunger for attention no doubt explains why the growly gospel guy submits to a mall-country makeover here. Yet if My Best Days feels a little impersonal, it’s also stocked with crafty contributions from some of Nashville’s most dependable song doctors, including the guys of Lady Antebellum, whose “It’s Only” mines a dreamy melancholy well suited to Gokey’s rough-honey vocals. Another highlight: “I Still Believe,” a chewy bit of cheeseball inspiration by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. B- —Mikael Wood
Download These: piano-laced ballad “It’s Only”; hard-grooving “Be Somebody”
Country (Warner Bros)
Blake Shelton’s ridiculously inappropriate Twitter persona has apparently liberated him from all aspects of the Nashville behavior model. Though he may play the buffoonish hick online (recent sample tweet: “Am I famous enough to sell this tooth I just spit out?”), the choice to buck traditional album cycles with this solid if unspectacular six-song EP is straight-up market savvy. Tragic but true: Country radio just wants singles. Why fuss with all the filler? B —Whitney Pastorek
Download These: ballad for a blackout drunk “You’ll Always Be Beautiful”; so over-the-top-you’ll-pray-it’s-satirical redneck anthem “Kiss My Country Ass”
Country (Mercury Nashville)
First three thoughts upon listening to Corbin’s debut: 1) He sounds like George Strait. 2) He is singing old-school songs, full of wit and heart. 3) It sounds effortless. Ignore the fact that someone decided to lead with “A Little More Country Than That,” the latest in a too-long line of singles asserting the down-home legitimacy of their respective artists. Dig deeper for gems like “This Far From Memphis” (as in “I didn’t know the blues ever got”), then sit back and remember why you fell in love with country music in the first place. B+ —W.P.
Download These: classic two-stepper “The Way Love Looks”; the creative heartbreak of “This Far From Memphis”