First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Wed February 6, 2008, 06:00 PM CST
Trisha Yearwood moved quickly from her role singing behind Garth Brooks to standing in the spotlight on her own accord. After issuing her self-titled debut in 1991, she not only helped to usher in the contemporary country scene, but she also rather consistently rode it to the top of the charts. Her singles, however, barely tell her full story, and many of the more interesting facets of her career continue to lurk beneath the polished sheen of her marketable image. In this regard, her latest retrospective Greatest Hits serves as a perfect example of how Nashville tends to go too far with its obsession of pushing stars toward achieving crossover success.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with what Yearwood has done in the past, and, more often than not, she convincingly relays her tales of love and heartache by singing them from the perspective of a young girl who is seeking independence even as she unwittingly follows in her parents’ footsteps. When her singles are placed back-to-back-to-back — as they are on Greatest Hits — however, Yearwood completely loses the dimensionality that she has shown on her albums. Not surprisingly the ballads — such as Like We Never Had a Broken Heart, The Woman Before Me, and The Song Remembers When — fare worst, largely because there’s nothing distinctive about them. Just when it seems as if Yearwood couldn’t possibly play it any safer, she unleashes the generic, Diane Warren-penned How Do I Live as if she’s trying to fill Celine Dion’s shoes. It’s a frightening prospect, and the blandness of both the tune and its arrangement brings the entire endeavor to a screeching halt.
Fortunately, whenever Yearwood picks up the tempo, she firmly reestablishes her country roots — even if they are drawn through the ’70s musings of Linda Ronstadt and, to a lesser degree, Dolly Parton. There’s a hardscrabble toughness to the driving groove of Wrong Side of Memphis, and both She’s in Love with the Boy and XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl) pack enough grit into their country-pop refrains to survive. The problem, though, is that much of the material on Greatest Hits is more in line with Juice Newton’s output than it is with Ronstadt’s or Parton’s. Yearwood seems to have forgotten that what made Parton’s masterpiece Coat of Many Colors so resonant was that it didn’t play to a middle-of-the-road crowd.
Nevertheless, the two new songs that are tacked onto the conclusion of Greatest Hits indicate that Yearwood currently is standing at a crossroads. The path on which Just a Cup of Coffee resides leads back the way she came, and although her vocals lend gravity to the post-divorce tale, the arrangement continues to mine terrain that is familiar, comfortable, and pleasant yet utterly innocuous. On the other hand, Nothin’ to Lose is a furiously feisty, bluegrass tune that stands among the most engaging recordings Yearwood has ever made. Here’s hoping that in the future she opts to follow her muse rather than her pocketbook. If she does, the results will be far more rewarding.
Of Further Interest...
Greatest Hits is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box