My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Jo Dee Messina – ‘The Unmistakable Trilogy’

539wJo Dee Messina’s commercial fortunes dwindled once Delicious Surprise fell from the charts. Curb Records stopped actively promoting her and Messina all but disappeared. Her final chart hit came courtesy of a non-album single entitled “I’m Done.” While not her strongest work the upbeat rocker was in keeping with her strong woman style and should’ve peaked higher then #36.

Messina was then to reemerge with a new album entitled Unmistakable. The full-length project was due in April 2010. At the last minute, Curb Records had other ideas and split the album into three EPs subtitled Love, Drive, and Inspiration. In addition to the newly recorded numbers, each project had a couple acoustic renderings of her hits thrown in where they best fit the given theme.

The EPs marked the first time Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore weren’t at the helm as producers. Scott Hendricks, who oversaw Blake Shelton’s two six-pack releases that same year, took over production duties. The first of the three, Unmistakable: Love, came out two weeks after the original album was supposed to have hit stores.

MI0002915145Unmistakable: Love consisted of seven original tracks. The majority of them are filler, pleasant album cuts that are easily passed over in favor of getting to the good stuff on a project. The title track of the trilogy is found here and it’s very good, although a second rate knockoff of “Burn.”

The next two EPs were released on the same day that November. The second volume is Unmistakable: Drive. Appropriately titled for the harder edge found in the production, the second volume features “Biker Chick” a Messina single from 2007 that came just after the final single from Delicious Surprise.Unknown The track is atrocious, easily among the worst she’s ever released. The rest of the EP follows suit with lazier songwriting
and uninspired melodies. Messina can shine in this vein, but none of these numbers are anywhere near close to the heights she reached with “Bye-Bye.”

The final EP, Unmistakable: Inspiration has a more spiritual bent. These six original songs are anchored by “That’s God,” the only single officially from the trilogy. The piano ballad works splendidly, 5150681and although it didn’t chart, is a great latter day radio offering from Messina. The remainder of the tracks contain worthy sentiments we’ve all heard before and offer little that is interesting or noteworthy.

The six acoustic numbers, all recorded live, are the best tracks found on the trilogy. “Bring on the Rain,” “BecauseYou Love Me,” and “Stand Beside Me” are all pretty faithful to the studio versions. “I’m Alright” has a bit of a Latin feel that is quite ear catching and “Lesson In Leavin’” shows some imagination from the original. “Even God Must Get The Blues,” an I’m Alright album cut, is a revelation. Messina’s vocal soars in ways she’s hardly ever sung before.

Usually when a record label tries a gimmick like this, there’s a legitimate reason. In this case, there just isn’t much here for the fan to sink into. The majority of the 19 original tracks are mostly forgettable filler and hardly anything stands out as a bonafide hit. Releasing these recordings as a trilogy was likely a way for Curb Records to drum up whatever excitement and publicity was left for Messina by that point.

At the end of the day, the Unmistakable Trilogy finds Messina in flawless voice. She ventures far too pop for much of the songs opting to deemphasize the gorgeous twang that soaked her debut album. But she still sounds better than ever, and that should count for something. I just wish there were more standout moments among these 19 newly recorded songs.

Grade: B-

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