Based on a True Story... "smoothly wins over the skeptics," says PEOPLE's critic

It would be easy for cynics to dismiss Blake Shelton‘s eighth studio album as a product of synergistic opportunism more than artistic inspiration.

After all, Based on a True Story … drops the same week that Shelton returns as a coach for the fourth season of The Voice. What a coinkydink?

But the ever-engaging country star smoothly wins over the skeptics. Hey, the dude isn’t the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year (third time running) for nothing.

While Shelton, perhaps too busy with his TV pursuits, didn’t write a lick of this, you wouldn’t know it from how these songs – and stories – capture his personality. Like him, it’s just all so dang likable.

He hits his stride quickly with the first two tracks: “Boys ‘Round Here,” which boasts some of the same slinky swagger of wife Miranda Lambert‘s “Baggage Claim” and features her Pistol Annies on backup, is a talk-singing ode to “keepin’ it country.” Then the ballad single “Sure Be Cool If You Did” nails Shelton’s aw-shucks charm as he unassumingly woos a woman who’s “lookin’ like a high I wanna be on.”

When you’re on a high like Shelton, you can get surefire songs like these.