Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert lend a hand in co-producing ‘XII,’ Neal McCoy‘s first album in almost seven years. The superstar country couple’s fingerprints cover almost every track. At times, it even sounds like Shelton singing.

McCoy and Shelton are cut from the same cloth, although ‘The Voice‘ coach came from the dirtier, more sarcastic end of that fabric. ‘Mouth’ is the best example of their similarities. This Jamey Johnson-penned song about saying something stupid is a bit predictable, but still laugh-out-loud funny.

Well I can stick my foot in my mouth / I mean all five toes don’t even leave the heel stickin’ out.

‘Every Fire’ is another highlight. McCoy says he was originally targeting Vince Gill to join him on this ballad about moving past an old love, but Lambert’s harmonies were too good to pass up. McCoy buries himself beneath the threads of this lyric, delivering the second-most memorable performance from ‘XII.’ His voice is a good pairing with Lambert’s. Almost as good as her husband’s.

But perhaps the sit down, shut up and don’t breathe until it’s over gem of the album is ‘Judge a Man by the Woman.’ “You judge a day by the sun / But you judge a man by the woman,” McCoy sings in his most soulful, tender performance in over a decade. It’s his solo on a project that feels mostly like a collaboration, albeit an enjoyable collaboration.

After a few flat spots like ‘Borderline Crazy’ and ‘That’s How She Gets,’ the imaginative and colorful ‘Van Gogh’ closes the album. The title may miss some in the country audience, but the story and descriptions McCoy patiently takes the listener through are soul satisfying. One can’t help but wonder who songwriters Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas were thinking about when they penned this tune.

4 Stars

More From Big Frog 104