At the age of 26, LeAnn Rimes is already somewhat of a veteran in the business. Her first album Blue was released in 1996, when she was only thirteen years old. Her debut single, the traditional “Blue”, a song written for Patsy Cline, showed an incredibly talented 13 year old singing like a forty-something woman who had lived a life of heartbreak and sorrow. The rest of the album did not quite live up to the promise of the debut single however.
Two mediocre albums followed, until 1998’s Sittin’ On Top Of The World came along and showed us an aspiring pop star, with good material to match. 1999’s LeAnn Rimes returned her to a more traditional sound, with no less than five Patsy Cline covers. 2001 gave us I Need You, a mix of ho-hum dance pop and ballads. 2002 gave us the abysmal Twisted Angel, which made me almost lose faith in LeAnn. She returned with one of the very best Christmas albums ever in 2004 however, and to say my faith was restored is to put it mildly. She followed it up with an even better album, the masterpiece that was This Woman. She made a europop excursion with 2006’s Whatever We Wanna, an excellent pop album. This short summary of her career shows that she has been a busy woman, which in her early years affected the quality of her music. Her last four albums however, including this one, were pumped out in four years, one per year, and yet they are still of remarkable quality.
As you can see, LeAnn has experimented with many kinds of music, everything from traditional country to pop; even rock. Family features a bit of everything, which is one of it’s many strengths. It is also the very first album that LeAnn has written or co-written all of the songs for, which shows. LeAnn connects with the songs in a way she hasn’t ever done before. Her voice has also never sounded any better than it does on this album, the album-closer “What I Cannot Change” being the absolute high point for her voice.
Family opens with the title track, a track more rock than it is country. LeAnn sings about the strong bond that a family shares, and she sings it with a passion few artists can match. The lead off single “Nothin’ Better To Do” oozes sex and soul, and it is truly one of the most infectious country-pop singles of later years. She tones it down a notch on “Fight”, one of the more traditional sounding songs on the album, and gives a vocal performance to die for. “Good Friend And A Glass Of Wine” and “Something I Can Feel” follows, “Good Friend….” being the strongest of the two. “Something I Can Feel” is slightly overproduced, but not enough to really drag down the song. A romantic ballad follows, “I Want You With Me”, one of the strongest cuts on the album. LeAnn really connects with the lyrics, and you really feel the words she is singing. “Nothing Wrong” is a steamy duet with Marc Broussard, and his scratchy vocals compliments LeAnn’s perfectly. Hot.
Track #9, “Pretty Things” is my absolute favorite from the album. LeAnn sings about vanity and materialism, and her interpretation of the song raises it above the “ordinary” love ballad it would have been without her masterful vocals to guide it. She rocks it out again on “Upper Hand”, and takes a swing into traditional country again with the superb, retro “One Day Too Long”. The album closer “What I Cannot Change” features one of the finest vocal performances I have ever heard from anyone. The production of the song is a little odd to me, but LeAnn’s soft, almost whispering of the chorus is enough to make even the strongest man emotional.
I will learn to let go what I cannot change
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change
I will learn to love what I cannot change
But I will change, yeah I will change
Whatever I, whenever I can
The album also has two bonus tracks, duets with Reba McEntire and Bon Jovi. They can be found on Reba Duets and Lost Highway respectively.
This is truly one of the best albums in any genre in the 2000’s.
Listen to ‘Pretty Things’.