Martina McBride Starter Kit

Martina McBrideShe’s one of the most successful female country artists of the past two decades, and though it was the 2000s that brought her most of her accolades, Martina McBride became a star in the nineties. She also released her strongest music during that decade, and her first three albums remain her strongest efforts to date.

For those of you who know McBride for her AC-flavored work in recent years, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the diversity of styles she explored early on in her career. Here’s where you should start:

Ten Essential Tracks

“Cheap Whiskey”
From the 1992 album The Time Has Come

It predates her breakthrough hits, but anyone who watched CMT back in the early nineties will remember the powerful video clip that accompanied McBride’s stone-countriest performance.

“My Baby Loves Me”
From the 1993 album The Way That I Am

It took this song 20 weeks to reach the #2 position, a glacial pace back in 1993. But the “Born in The U.S.A.”-borrowed power chords still sound cool today, so it’s no surprise that this was a big hit.

“Independence Day”
From the 1993 album The Way That I Am

Well, obviously.

“Safe in the Arms of Love”
From the 1995 album Wild Angels

There’s an indescribably unique sound to this record, and it’s still the coolest thing she’s ever done.

“Wild Angels”
From the 1995 album Wild Angels

Her first #1 hit came courtesy of Matraca Berg, who originally intended this to be the title track of her second country album.

“A Broken Wing”
From the 1997 album Evolution

She’d eventually go down the abuse song road too many times, but this is a remarkably powerful record.

“Whatever You Say”
From the 1997 album Evolution

This song was the blueprint for future hits “Where Would You Be” and “How Far”, but “Whatever You Say” is the strongest of her “scream ’til my lungs bleed” trilogy.

“Love’s the Only House”
From the 1999 album Emotion

Everything that Toby Keith’s vocal defenders have been saying he accomplished with “American Ride” was actually pulled off by Martina on this hit, which captures the contradictions of all the excess of wealth and underbelly of poverty that you can find in a diverse urban society.

From the 2001 album Greatest Hits

A love letter to the life that God has given her, done with understatement and subtlety.

From the 2007 album Waking Up Laughing

A pretty darn good code to live by. Heck, it was good enough for Mother Teresa.

Two Hidden Treasures

“Goin’ to Work”
From the 1993 album The Way That I Am

Pam Tillis co-wrote this working woman’s anthem, where a broken heart takes a back seat during the work day. “I’m good at my work,” she sings, declaring that her identity is defined by more than just the man who left her.

“All the Things We’ve Never Done”
From the 1995 album Wild Angels

The most beautiful anniversary song I’ve ever heard. Ever.


  1. My list would look quite different, and be very heavy on Wild Angels. This list seems to try to hard to include up-tempos while her best songs are the ballads IMO.

    I’d definitely add the songs ‘Cry On The Shoulder of the Road’, ‘Wrong Again’, and ‘Strangers’ to anything called essential Martina McBride tracks.

  2. Not too bad. I definitely agree with your assessment of “Whatever You Say” and I love the blurb for “Independence Day”. I also agree with you that “Anyway”, “Love’s the Only House” and “Safe In the Arms of Love” should be on this list. I would have also included “This One’s For the Girls” and “Wrong Again”. My hidden treasures would be cover of “Two More Bottles of Wine” and “This Uncivil War” from Emotion. Her Christmas album is also one of the only ones that is a must for me every December.

  3. J.R.,

    I wish I could say I was trying too hard, but these are just the songs by McBride that I like the most. I enjoy the songs that you singled out, too.

  4. Seems like 10 songs are not enough. How do you leave out “In My Daughter’s Eyes”, “Valentine” and “When God-Fearin Women Get the Blues”. I agree with Michael on “This One’s For the Girls” and “Wrong Again” and her Christmas cd. My hidden treasure would be “Wearing White” from her 2003 cd and I love your pick of “All the Things We’ve Never Done”. The cds that followed, “Timeless”, “Waking Up Laughing” and “Shine” I found disappointing but I liked her duets with Raul Malo and Jimmy Buffet, respectively “Feels Like Home” and “Trip Around the Sun”.

  5. Oh…and I love the “Independence Day” rationale.:)

    I actually like a lot of Martina songs, but they’re really mostly all from the nineties. Her first three albums are her best.

  6. Yep, 90’s Martina is superior to 00’s Martina for me, as well. “Wild Angels” is my overall favorite with “Safe In The Arms Of Love” as a very close second. Great picks for the hidden gems, too. I’d also like to include more of her ballads such as “Wrong Again,” “Cry On The Shoulder Of The Road,” “Valentine,” and “There You Are.” “Life #9” is another favorite that hasn’t been mentioned, yet

    Other hidden treasures:
    “Strangers” from The Way That I Am
    “A Great Disguise” and “Phones Are Ringin’ All Over Town” from Wild Angels

    Like Leeann, I really like her first three albums, especially Wild Angels, but I also enjoy Evolution.

  7. Great choices, but I also love “That Wasn’t Me”, and “Anything’s better than feelin’ the blues”. I also think “Wrong Again” is beautiful.

  8. Under Hidden Treasures add “When You Are Old” from her debut album. Good list, though I personally wouldn’t have included “Love’s The Only House”. This list just reinforces how much the quality of her music has declined in recent years. I wish she’d get back to doing the kinds of songs you’ve listed.

  9. Martina’s hidden treasures could include quite a few songs.

    I’d have a hard time coming up with just two…

    “It’s My Time”
    “From The Ashes”
    “This Uncivil War”
    “Learning To Fall”
    “I’m Trying”
    “House Of A Thousand Dreams”
    “Love Land”
    “Where I Used To Have A Heart”
    “Phones Are Rining All Over Town”
    “Swinging Doors”
    “All The Things We’ve Never Done”
    “Cry On The Shoulder Of The Road”

    all could’ve been included in my list of hidden tracks. there’s just too many to choose from, and many are supirior to her singles.

  10. I second “Wearing White” as a hidden gem. Also gotta speak up for “Everybody Does” from the Waking Up Laughing album. Very pop, but one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard before or since, with a great vocal. I like the message too, that heartbreak happens to everyone.

  11. Very nice definately put me in the mood to revisit some of Martina’s catalog.

    Apparently, like most of the other commenters, I’m more of a fan of her 90’s output. For whatever reason I kinda lost interest in her stuff following her Greatest Hits album. Something about her changed after that and her music seemed to be more about melodrama and vocal melisma.

    If I made a list like this- I could have probably included just about any track from “Wild Angels”. Easily her best album for me- and I think one of the strongest pop-country discs of the 90’s overall.

    The one track I would have included on an essentials list that didn’t make Kevin’s would be the title track from The Time Has Come.

    It was released as a single, but I’m not sure that it charted all that well. It’s kind of a shame it wasn’t a bigger hit- 17 years later, I’d put it alongside “Wild Angels”,”Safe In the Arms…” & “Where Would You Be” as my favorite Martina tracks. I would LOVE to see her do an album of contemporary country with a focus on more subtle, understated vocals…like we got from her before “Whatever You Say” and “A Broken Wing” got her so much exposure for powerhouse belting.

  12. I would have added Rose Garden on here. She really does Lynn Anderson just with the song, I am half tempted to say she does it better. A good cover none-the-less from Martina.

  13. Of Martina’s stuff, I guess I like “Love’s The Only House” (which does indeed say more about inequality in America than “American Ride”), and “When God-Fearin’ Women Get The Blues.” In general, however, I’m not that much into her because of her overt belting style (which she often does in the wrong places [IMHO]), and a general tendency for her hits to be a bit too inoffensive.

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