It's possible that Blake Shelton, aside from Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn, is the most traditional country act RodeoHouston will have this year. That's either a step in the right direction or a happy accident on the part of the organizers. Let's hope that it's the former. Compared to the rest of this year's crop of performers and judging by Shelton's burly voice and rough exterior, you would almost think he would be relegated to the Hideout with the rest of the trad country stars. Saturday evening's show was Shelton's first one on the rodeo's revolving stage and he seemed to take to it like a fish to water. His vocals weren't plagued with the same sweetening that the others have been this year's go-round, and he seemed more comfortable in front 50,000 people than most. Opening with "The More I Drink," he immediately laid out his intentions.
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Not but three songs into his set, Shelton unpacked Conway Twitty's "Goodbye Time," further solidifying his sturdy country credentials. Shelton most resembles the classic star in terms of stoicism and vocals, so it made all the more sense. Shelton's own "Almost Alright" fell right in line, and the ode to getting over the past lit up the room. "Some Beach" is the classic country pun-song, but it didn't once veer into cutesy territory the way it would have in lesser hands. Off the entire cats of past rodeo stars, Shelton's sound most resembles folks like George Strait and maybe even John Anderson. He's one of the new crop of country guys that you won't have to worry about endorsing a flat iron, wearing sparkly jeans onstage or relying on Auto-tune. We watched the show from the muted press box and general-admission area, and from each vantage point, he was on his game. It's straight-ahead country without any superfluous trappings, and we hope RodeoHouston starts championing folks like Shelton in the future.