Prime Cuts: Marry Me, Summer of Love, Long Distance Lullaby
"11" is more than just the title of McBride's latest CD. Rather, this is also her 11th record with 11 newly recorded tracks in her illustrious career and it's released on October 11th. As if all of this is not enough, McBride will be hopping on the Amtrak to promote this record making 11 stops. However, it is not mathematical gimmick that will propel this disc to a brand new career high for this country diva, it's the songs. The majority of these 11 tracks are stellar -- packed with well-constructed melodies, thoughtful lyrics and catapulted by McBride's soaring high octane soprano. After 10 studio records with RCA Nashville Records, "11" marks a new beginning for McBride. On this her debut record for Republic Nashville Records, she has enlisted Bryon Gallimore (Faith Hill and Tim McGraw) as producer. Thankfully, Gallimore has not chosen the commercial exploitative route of imbuing this record with a ear popping stadium rock. Rather, this record has an organic feel with almost a rootsy feel on a few tracks yet it not so removed from commercial country radio. There are still some routine singles tailored for radio. Moreover, on this record McBride for the first time has co-written 7 out of the 11 cuts here.
Surprisingly, the best track on this disc has its sui genesis as a rock number. Imitating her peer Reba McEntire who had recently turned Beyonce's "If I Was a Boy" into a top 20 country hit, McBride has gone after Train's "Marry Me." "Marry Me" with its kitsch lyrics about the protagonist being smitten by love yet having no courage to tell the boy she loves begs for a country makeover. This is the type of music country music fans are craving for and with McBride and Train's Pat Monahan's sympathetic deliveries this is destined to be a hit. More romantic moments come with retro-sounding rock ballad "Broken Umbrella." This Mark Irwin, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins composition finds a love drenched McBride basking in love's euphoria so much that no broken umbrella could deter her from her stormy trials. McBride has never sounded happier with the Jewel-like "Always Be This Way" where she is sonically carried by a reggae backbeat led by the song's irresistible hook. While summer love has been subject of many a country song (a la Alan Jackson's "Summertime Blues" and Walker Hayes' "Why Wait for Summer"), McBride's "Summer of Love" is taken at a slower and nostalgic pace made even more romantic by the soothing acoustic guitar riffs.
Almost indispensable to any McBride records, she has had her share of inspirational numbers. Just like her previous hits "Concrete Angel," "Anyway," "God's Will," McBride has again tried to delicately speak to life's situations via her songs. This time via "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" she deals with a woman in her late 30s coming to grips with having cancer. Though one cannot fault McBride on the sincerity of the song but it is somehow let down by the song's pretty pedantic big balladry predictable melody. "When You Love a Sinner" also touches on the darker side of a relationship as a woman deals with her relationship's deficiencies. Again McBride is let down by the song's pretty unimaginative melodic development. Nevertheless, McBride has to be congratulated for making her music relevant with "Teenage Daughters." A song that trumps with its realistic lyrics that most parents can relate to set on a contemporary radio tailored pop production. The same can be said of "You Can Get Your Loving Right Here"--an amalgam of 60s rock over a strutting, funky and sultry tune.
The album closes on a glowing note with the string-laden ballad "Long Distance Lullaby." Though the loneliness of being far from home is not novel to country music, the way McBride pours her heart out with sincere measures of sensitivity and pain is worth the album's price here. This is what McBride excels in. On the whole this album's weakest moments are those when McBride makes concession to radio. But on tracks where she just lets her hair down and sings to her heart's content, she is simply stunning. More than numbers, this is a record with material strong enough to lead McBride into a new chapter of her career with aplomb.