My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Martina McBride – ‘Shine’

image-11For her tenth studio album, Martina McBride decided it was time to switch out Paul Worley, whom she had been working with since what seems to be the dawn of time. His replacement? Dan Huff. Just the sound of that name triggers many alarms in country fans all over the world. The result is, as expected, one of Martina’s poppiest albums, but also, shockingly one might add, a really good one.

The set opens with the 80’s rock-esque track “Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong”, an empowering theme about living life to the fullest. What’s surprising is that it’s actually really well written, as opposed to the new Jo Dee Messina single. Martina’s also oddly “silent”, meaning that she’s not belting all the time. This actually goes for the entire album, with a few exceptions, one being the second track, “I Just Call You Mine”, a big pop number. Martina could possibly take this all the way to #1 on the AC charts, because this song isn’t just pop, it’s good pop.

The next track, “Sunny Side Up” is a rather bland track not flattered by Huff’s production. Martina manages to sound interesting however, so it’s not a total loss. It’s followed by another song “Walk Away”, that’s just as suited for the AC charts as “I Just Call You Mine”, but just like that song, it’s also really good.

The real shocker on this album is track five – ‘I’m Trying’, which is a haunting song about a couple dealing with a man’s alcoholism. The track, which is almost acoustic, shocks on behalf of Dan Huff because of the sparse production, but also on behalf of Martina, whose singing has never been more nuanced and restrained.

“What Do I Have To Do”, a song about not being able to let go is a predictable next single choice because of its big chorus and poppy sound.  “Don’t Cost A Dime” is another would-be-great single choice, especially for a summer release because of its light mood. “Ride”, the current single, is the perfect example of radio fodder, and is probably the weakest track on the album along with “Sunny Side Up”.

Martina does seem to love those abused children songs, as the second to last track “Wild Rebel Rose” is in the exact same vein as “Concrete Angel”. “Wild Rebel Rose” is however superior to that song in every possible way; the instrumentation is exquisite with its Celtic flavors, and Martina’s performance is much more heartfelt.

“Lies”, the album closer, is simply one of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard. The lyric is very similar to Dolly Parton’s “The Grass Is Blue”, but it’s almost entirely driven by a piano and strings, which adds a dramatic effect to the song. Martina shows much restraint here too, not over-singing one bit. She does, however, hit a few operatic notes towards the end that are simply bone-chilling.

“Shine” features what is probably Martina’s best singing of her career, and is filled with many quality songs. I doubt it will disappoint anyone,  except fans who only enjoy traditional country. I can with relative certainty say that you can look for this on my end-of-year album list in eight months or so.

A

Listen to “Ride”.

17 responses to “Album Review: Martina McBride – ‘Shine’

  1. J.R. Journey March 24, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I agree about her vocals on this album. She is very much restrained compared to some of her recent stuff. The songs on this record are still kind of hit and miss – but this is definitely her best album since the late 90s.

  2. Leeann Ward March 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    I believe Kevin is slated to review this album at CU, so I haven’t had a chance to hear it yet. I’m hopeful, butstill skeptical. Since you and I disagree about Martina’s best albums I worry that we won’t agree here. I’m, however, itching for a turnaround on Martina’s part so I can like her again.

    • Razor X March 24, 2009 at 1:53 pm

      I’ve been hoping for a turnaround as well, but this isn’t it. It’s a little better than her last album but Martina is capable of far better than this. Reading this review made me realize that she hasn’t really put out an album that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end — with the exception of Timeless — since 1997’s Evolution.

      • J.R. Journey March 24, 2009 at 8:37 pm

        That’s how I feel too. She really lost me after Evolution. It and Wild Angels are two remarkable albums. And I wish she would reach for those heights again lyrically.

        I still like this album better than any of her works since Evolution mostly because she doesn’t oversing nearly as much here. But the songs are just okay. She could have done better for sure. I don’t think it’s an A album.

  3. Occasional Hope March 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    ‘I’m Trying’ is excellent. Diamond Rio did a lovely version of this as a duet with Chely Wright a few years ago, but Martina’s version is very good too.

    She does sing well on the record, but I’m not impressed by the quality of the songs. I didn’t like Sunny Side Up *at all* – far too aggressively positive.

  4. Leeann Ward March 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Ah, it’s the same version of “I’m Trying”? I didn’t like the Diamond Rio/Wright version, because it seemed very lackluster to me. I heard potential in the song though, so I’m interested to hear McBride’s take on it.

  5. Chris March 24, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    So far I’m liking this album, but I agree on the general reaction to “Sunny Side Up”- I don’t like it. Great album so far, but I’m only on “Walk Away”…

  6. Drew March 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, an A? It’s better than I hoped, but I thought A’s were reserved for seriously great material… and this just isn’t that.

    • J.R. Journey March 27, 2009 at 6:29 pm

      An A is being very generous, I agree. This is her best work in the past decade I think. But it’s still not an A album, and not the quality album Martina is capable of making. She has access to the best songs being written in Nashville and one of the greatest too. I’d give it a middle B at best.

      • Leeann Ward March 27, 2009 at 8:58 pm

        I’d say Timeless is her best album of the decade, though it’s not even great.

        • Razor X March 27, 2009 at 9:27 pm

          Timeless is definitely her best album of the decade. Apparently I enjoyed it a lot more than you did. As for Shine, it doesn’t deserve anything higher than a C.

        • Leeann Ward March 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm

          I thought Timeless was good, but flawed. If I were to give Shine a grade, I probably wouldn’t give it anything higher than a C either.

  7. Leeann Ward March 27, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I especially thought “Walk Away” was bland. I guess I don’t like it when lines are repeated consecutively…”Walk away/Walk away”.

  8. Razor X April 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Martina spoke to The Tennessean about the album and her career:

    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090329/TUNEIN/903290308/1005/ENTERTAINMENT

  9. Nicolas May 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Lovely review ❤

    I love this album… before “Shine” I didn’t really like Martina McBride aside from a songs here and there, but I think my opinion is changed after this stellar CD

  10. Sam June 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I love this album, do I think some better songs could have been choosen yes. I really hope to see “Wild Rebel Rose” as a single, it struck me from the first time I heard it. Martina is Martina she does what she feels, and what she wants but also tries to make her fans happy. She is a class act and has the best voice in Country music I have ever heard. A+

  11. Pingback: Martina McBride "I Just Call You Mine" | Listen to Martina McBride's New Single and buy Her New CD Now | Country Radio Hits

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