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FLIPSIDE BLAKE SHELTON
Blake Shelton to play Show Me Center on Saturday, February 5th. (courtesy)

Shoppers with a hard-to-please country music fan on their Christmas list can give the gift of Blake Shelton this year.

Shelton is one of the hottest names in the industry. Closing out the year with a flourish, in a six-week span this fall, he was named Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association, inducted into the prestigious Grand Ole Opry family and named Male Music Video Artist of the Year by the newly created American Country Awards, largely behind the powerhouse “Hillbilly Bone” collaboration with Trace Adkins.

“This has been an amazing year for me,” Shelton says. “If you would have told me when I started out that I would have two major awards, a CD in the upper reaches of the charts, a sold-out show at the Ryman Auditorium and a career that’s generally on fire, I would have thought you were pulling my leg.”

Shelton will be in concert at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Opening acts include Easton Corbin and The Band Perry. Tickets range from $32 to $42 and can be purchased by calling 573-651-5000.

The 34-year old Oklahoma native has cracked the Billboard Top 40 with each of his 19 singles. He has reached the top of the charts with “Austin,” “The Baby,” “Some Beach,” “Home,” “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” “Hillbilly Bone” and recent party anthem “All About Tonight.” His current single, “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” is at No. 18 and climbing on Billboard.

Shelton’s ascent into the country music stratosphere in 2010 was fueled by a pair of six packs — the release of two CDs each containing six songs.

He started by releasing the title track of “Hillbilly Bone,” an instant No. 1 hit. Hidden at the end of the album version of the song is a hilarious mock radio interview in which the disc jockey repeatedly calls Shelton by the wrong name. In retaliation, Shelton smoothly slides into track two, “Kiss My Country A**,” a tribute to outlaw era material written by Rhett Akins.

On the second album, Shelton also topped the charts with the title song “All About Tonight” and follow-up “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” is heading in the same direction. A gem on this CD is the tongue-in-cheek “Draggin’ the River,” which features vocals from fiancée Miranda Lambert. The effort solidifies the couple’s newly claimed strangle-hold as the leading power couple in country music.

The two have been engaged since May. A mutual love of hunting has become a theme for the wedding.

“We’re having deer meat served at our wedding — we’ve already got a pile of ‘em ready,” Shelton says. “It was actually Miranda’s idea. So when your girlfriend thinks like that, it makes it easy for me to just show up and have a good time.”

Laying a solid foundation earlier in his career with tunes like “Ol’ Red,” “Playboys of the Southwestern World” and “The More I Drink,” Shelton connected with a larger fan base this year because his double dose of new material would often vividly describe his rowdy weekend escapades, which were on a parallel line with the blue-collar, working-class listener. Both would rather be dressed in camo, sitting on a tailgate around a campfire drinking Bud Light, as they unwind from a hectic work week.

Shelton is definitely blue collar. He moved to Nashville to pursue his musical dream in 1993. He was 17. He painted houses to put food on the table. One of those houses belonged to Mae Axton, who wrote “Heartbreak Hotel” for Elvis Presley. Her encouragement helped him through difficult periods of industry rejection.

One of the important contacts he cultivated doing the early years in Nashville was with songwriter Bobby Braddock, who inked “He Stopped Loving Her Today” for George Jones. Braddock taught Shelton the craft of songwriting.

Shelton signed with Giant Record in 1998. The label folded soon after his debut single “Austin” was released in 2001. Parent company Warner Bros. Records wisely picked up his contract because the single would eventually reached No. 1 and held the lofty position for five weeks.

Vince Hoffard can be reached at 618-658-9095 or vincehoffard@yahoo.com.

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