My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Hearts In Armor’

Trisha’s second album, released in 1992, is still my favorite. Garth Fundis’s production is sympathetic, with a number of special guests who support the record without overwhelming it. Trisha, who I regard as one of the most naturally gifted vocalists in country music and a subtle and tasteful interpreter of emotion, was at the peak of her vocal powers and interpretative ability, and the song selection was excellent.

The hypnotically bluesy lead single ‘The Wrong Side of Memphis’ (written by Gary Harrison and Matraca Berg) was a big hit, peaking at #5, with a semi-autobiographical tale of a young singer on her way to Nashville. The instrumentation is punchy without being over-produced, with harmony vocalists including Raul Malo, whose Mavericks’ bandmate Robert Reynolds was shortly to become Trisha’s second husband. It is atypical of the album as a whole, which is focussed on failed and failing relationships, a theme perhaps resulting from Trisha’s own recent divorce from her first husband.

Harrison also co-wrote (with Tim Mensy) ‘Nearest Distant Shore’, a beautiful ballad addressed empathetically to a friend (or perhaps to the protagonist’s inner self) trapped in a destructive relationship, and advising:

You vowed you would not fail
But this ain’t success
It’s a living hell
There’s nothing left to lose
You’re already alone

Swim to the nearest distant shore
There’s only so much a heart can endure
You gave it your best
Forgive yourself
You can’t hold on anymore
It’s not as far as it might seem
Now it’s time to let go of old dreams
Every heart for itself
Swim to the nearest distant shore

Trisha perfectly conveys the intensity of the emotions here without ever seeming melodramatic, supported by Garth Brooks’ harmony.

The second single, and the album’s biggest hit, adhered to the general mood, while being less obviously personal. The exquisitely sung ‘Walkaway Joe’, featuring a harmony vocal from former Eagle Don Henley, tells the cautionary tale of a young girl who makes a catastrophic choice of boyfriend (“the wrong kind of paradise”). Ignoring her mother’s words of warning, she finds out the hard way when he robs a gas station and then abandons her. It peaked at #2 on Billboard, making it the album’s biggest hit, and was nominated for a Grammy.

It was back to the uptempo radio-friendly material for the third single, in the shape of the insistent ‘You Say You Will’ a bitter criticism of a partner who never keeps his promises. It has a similar feel musically to ‘The Wrong Side Of Memphis’, with Raul Malo on harmony again and a hypnotic beat, but it was less successful n the chart, just missing the top 10. It is one of the less distinctive moments here, despite being written by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Verlon Thompson.

Beth Nielsen Chapman’s other cut on the album, the contemporary ballad ‘Down On My Knees’, disappointingly barely scraped into the top 20, despite a beautiful melody and another intense performance by Trisha. It is a love song where the protagonist contemplates the thought of her love ending and just how desperate her response would be.

The title track, written by Jude Johnstone, is one of the finest songs Trisha has ever recorded, with a simple piano and viola backing, and Henley again on harmony, it is a woman’s confession of love denied for fear of pain:

Like a fool I kept my secret
When it made no sense to try
Now I can no longer keep it
For it’s late and the moon is high

And every hour that goes by
The harder I become
Because I let that well run dry
Because I left you unanswered

One more day my heart’s in armor
Though I did not see it then
I would finish what you started
If I had that chance again

Another highlight is a lovely take on Emmylou Harris’s ‘Woman Walk The Line’. This was one of the songs Emmylou wrote herself with her then-husband Paul Kennerley for the mid-80s concept album Ballad Of Sally Rose, and it had previously been covered by Highway 101 on their debut album in 1987. With lovely fiddle and mandolin from Stuart Duncan and Sam Bush, and Emmylou herself on harmony, this is as pure country a record as Trisha has even made, and is just lovely – perhaps the best of the three versions.

Trisha also covered the O’Kanes’ ‘Oh Lonesome You’, from their debut album in 1987, and a new Jamie O’Hara song, the outstanding ballad ‘For Reasons I’ve Forgotten’. The latter features Raul Malo’s harmonies, and is a definite highlight. Set to a lovely melody, it is a forlorn lament for a love lost partly to pride:

And the crazy thing about it is
I don’t even remember
Who was right
Who was wrong

For reasons I’ve forgotten now
We brought love to an end
Ain’t it funny how the little things
Seemed so big back then
Damn the pride that makes me want
To break instead of bend
For reasons I’ve forgotten now
I lost my one true friend

Jamie O’Hara was, incidentally, to record the song himself a couple of years later on his solo album for RCA, Rise Above It, but Trisha’s version is unmatched.

Trisha also picked a previously unrecorded gospel song written but never recorded by the late Keith Whitley, ‘You Don’t Have To Move That Mountain’, with Vince Gill on harmony.

The album is easy to find digitally and it appears to be in CD format, but one word of warning if you’re looking for a hard copy: a special reissue with the same cover is out there with a slightly different track listing. The two Jamie O’Hara songs are omitted, and a handful of bonus tracks from Trisha’s debut are included instead. Some resellers are unaware of the two versions and link to the wrong listing.

Grade: A

12 responses to “Album Review: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Hearts In Armor’

  1. Blake Jonathan Boldt October 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

    One of the best country albums of the ’90s, and if you can track down a copy, I would suggest the book “Get Hot or Go Home,” a really interesting look at the recording process and Trisha’s burgeoning career.

  2. bob October 7, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Great review. This album is an example of why someone new to Trisha’s music would be missing a lot by just buying a greatest hits compilation to catch up. They’d miss album tracks like “Nearest Distant Shore”, “For Reasons I’ve Forgotten” and “Hearts in Armor”.

  3. Ben Foster October 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I really like this album. “Wrong Side of Memphis” and “Walkaway Joe” are a few of my favorites, and I also like “You Say You Will.”

  4. Danika Holmes October 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I’m a big Trisha fan as well. Walkway Joe is one of my favorites, and I have gotten much inspiration from Trisha. Would love for you to check out my site and listen to my music. http://www.danikaholmes.com/music.htm

  5. Leeann October 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I like this album too. I don’t like “You Say You Will” much either. I think Garth Brooks is who I hear singing background vocals on “Nearest Distant Shore” though, not Vince Gill.

  6. BLL October 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Indeed, Leeann, it is Garth singing back up on ‘Nearest Distant Shore’.

    This is one of my favourites; but then none of her cd’s have what I consider to be fluff on them.

  7. Michael A. October 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Not much I can add to the discussion. I do really like this album, but am hard pressed to pick a favorite song from it. I don’t think it’s my favorite Yearwood release, but it’s definitely in the Top 5.

  8. Razor X October 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    This is definitely one of her best albums — I’d rank it her second best. “For Reasons I’ve Forgotten” is my favorite track.

  9. J.R. Journey October 8, 2010 at 9:51 am

    This isn’t my favorite TY album, but like others have said, it’s really close to the top. Favorites of mine are ‘For Reasons I’ve Forgotten’, ‘Woman Walk The Line’, ‘Nearest Distant Shore’, and ‘Oh Lonesome You’, but there aren’t any tracks I can say I dislike. And Blake is right about the book Get Hot or Go Home. I found a used copy on amazon for just a couple bucks and it’s a fascinating look inside the country music boom of the early 90s and Trisha Yearwood’s fast-rising career as country’s sophisticated girl-next-door. It also serves as a fine companion to this album with lots of info about the song selection and recording process.

  10. Kevin Coyne October 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    That other edition of “Hearts in Armor” – with fifteen tracks, but not all ten songs from the original set – is the U.K. version of the album. There are U.K. versions of “The Song Remembers When”, “Thinkin’ About You”, and “Everybody Knows” as well, but they all have all of the original songs with added bonus tracks.

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