A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective
Part 6: 2005-2009
After a lengthy hiatus, Trisha Yearwood returns to a dramatically changed country music scene that has marginalized nearly all of its female artists. Despite radio not fully getting on board, she still released some of the best music of her career, and picked up another gold album and a few more Grammy nominations along the way.
Written by Ed Hill and Karyn Rochelle
Country #15 | Pop #78
When Trisha Yearwood sang the line, “I can’t believe I’m back again after all these years away” at the CMT Awards in 2005, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause. She’d been gone for too long, and she’d been missed.
“Georgia Rain” serves as an effective reintroduction to Yearwood’s signature style. A strong song impeccably produced and elevated to greater heights by a mature and sophisticated vocal performance. It doesn’t break any new ground for her, but the lyric itself is nostalgic that the record being a retread of her earlier work is a mark in its favor.
But if you really want to hear her cut loose while singing about her home state, check out her fiery live cover of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” – Kevin John Coyne
Country #1 (2 weeks) | Pop #4
Who Invented the Wheel
Trying to Love You
River of You
Baby Don’t You Let Go
Standing Out in a Crowd
Gimme the Good Stuff
Later Editions Also Include:
Love Will Always Win (with Garth Brooks)
So many artists go their entire careers without recording an album of the caliber of Jasper County, and it’s a testament to the depth of Yearwood’s catalogue that it’s right at the middle of her bell curve. Working in the album’s favor are the range of Yearwood’s performances– she’s rarely sounded as playful on record as she does on some of these cuts– and some riskier production choices that pay off.
“Who Invented The Wheel” is a stunning opener, a minor-key triumph of self-deception and blameshifting that, like “I Don’t Paint Myself Into Corners” before it, would have tripped up most any other singer with its complicated phrasing and dynamic range. There’s something of an If You Give A Mouse a Cookie… element to the narrative’s construction, but Yearwood overcomes that with a torrid performance that drips with venom for all of the people she’s blaming for a failed romance. Few of the album’s subsequent songs are even half as interesting, though “Georgia Rain”is a fine addition to Yearwood’s collection of exquisite ballads, and she and Ronnie Dunn sound flat-out amazing together on the plaintive “Try Me,” which should’ve been tagged as a single.
Unfortunately, the album is marred by the most uneven songwriting on any of Yearwood’s records. She sounds like she’s having a blast singing “Pistol,” but its central metaphor is so ham-fisted that it really leaves little room for any of Yearwood’s actual interpretive skill, while “Standing Out in a Crowd” reads far more like one of Garth Brooks’ attempts at a socially uplifting anthem than the complex narratives Yearwood typically gravitates toward. The lapses in songwriting quality might be less of an issue if the album had a greater thematic heft, but Jasper County lacks the kind of throughlines that characterize her strongest work. Instead, Jasper County is a set of mostly fine enough songs, performed beautifully by the best singer in the business. That’s hardly a terrible thing for an album to be, but it also isn’t a patch on a work of real scope and vision like Hearts in Armor or Real Live Woman. But it wouldn’t take long for Yearwood to be back on top of her game. – Jonathan Keefe
“Trying to Love You”
Written by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Bill Lloyd
Country #52 | AC #28
The most baffling single choice of Yearwood’s entire career, this absolutely comatose ballad killed the uptick in radio momentum she’d earned with “Georgia Rain.” Chapman and Lloyd are both fine songwriters, but the couplets they constructed on “Trying to Love You” are so simplistic that they border on juvenile, and the song’s melody makes any given Lady Antebellum single sound riveting and energetic in comparison. Yearwood herself sounds like she’s sleepwalking through her performance, too, but why wouldn’t she? The song demands less of her than anything else she’s ever recorded. Country radio responded to this with a resounding shrug, and it’s so dull that even Adult Contemporary radio barely hit on it, either. “Try Me” or “Gimme the Good Stuff” would’ve been far better picks than “Trying to Love You,” which was the worst cut on Jasper County until, well, read on… – JK
“Love Will Always Win” (with Garth Brooks)
Written by Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Tacked on as an afterthought to a reissue of Jasper County, “Love Will Always Win” makes the album’s “Standing Out in a Crowd” sound like a masterclass of subtlety and insight by comparison. Hell, it makes something like Up! With People sound subtle. Co-writer Wayne Kirkpatrick kicked around the CCM scene before making inroads at country as a contributor to Little Big Town’s early records, and “Love Will Always Win” has every hallmark of CCM at its absolute worst. It’s all bombast and empty, soulless uplift, shouted at full volume over a bland pop arrangement that wants for the relative edginess of early-90s Phil Collins soft rock hits. Garth’s never been capable of embarrassment at this kind of thing, but, God, I hope Trisha cringes at least a little when she looks back on this one. – JK
Country #2 | Pop #22
She’s in Love With the Boy
Like We Never Had a Broken Heart
The Woman Before Me
Wrong Side of Memphis
Walkaway Joe (with Don Henley)
The Song Remembers When
XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)
Thinkin’ About You
Believe Me Baby (I Lied)
How Do I Live
There Goes My Baby
I Would’ve Loved You Anyway
Just a Cup of Coffee
Nothin’ to Lose
This Greatest Hits package presents the best albums artist of her generation as a pretty darn good singles artist, too. It picks up some of the missing hits from [Songbook}: A Collection of Hits , which had followed the tired label rule of not including singles from the most recent studio album (“Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” and “Everybody Knows.”) It also picks up a handful of later radio hits: “There Goes My Baby, “Powerful Thing,” and “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.”
However, it does not serve as an effective replacement of Songbook, leaving off the No. 1 Garth Brooks duet “In Another’s Eyes” and the Hearts in Armor stunner “Down On My Knees.” Also baffling is the exclusion of “Georgia Rain,” which had powered Jasper County to gold sales in a matter of weeks.
“In Another’s Eyes” was likely al licensing issue, but the exclusion of “Knees,” as well as key post-1997 singles like “Real Live Woman,” “Where are You Now,” and “I Don’t Paint Myself into Corners,” reveals the key flaw of the compilation: a slavish dedication to chart performance on the airplay-only country singles chart. Songbook told a compelling story about Yearwood as an artist, while Greatest Hits makes the decision that her story isn’t interesting enough to simply continue from where its predecessor had left off.
Greatest Hits was originally planned as Songbook II, but unlike with the first Songbook, Yearwood was denied editorial control over the album’s content. This ended up driving her away from MCA Nashville, as she felt there was no point staying where her catalog was if she had no influence over its management.
So instead of truly new material that Yearwood intended for release, we get two outtakes – “Just a Cup of Coffee” and “Nothin’ to Lose” – that only illustrate Yearwood’s good judgment in what to include on an album and what to leave off. They would’ve been better off filling up the CD with other hits or some truly deep cuts like those international bonus tracks from Thinkin’ About You and Everybody Knows, which were casualties of the “ten tracks only” rule on their U.S. editions and made the international versions of those album’s stronger. – KJC
“Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love”
Written by Clay Mills and Tia Sillers
Yearwood isn’t the least bit intimidated by songs that have unconventional structures, so she took command of this triptych by Clay Mills and Tia Sillers right from the opening notes. What she makes clear right from the jump as she unfurls the song’s title as a soulful, bluesy wail is that she is in full command of both her voice and the song’s message. As I’ve said before in this feature, I actually think Yearwood sounds best on tracks that allow her to lean into grittier phrasing and tones, and she turns this song about everlasting salvation, broken hearts that hurt like hell, and both earthly and eternal redemption into a powerful sermon. Trisha really and truly hits her hallelujah on this one, and all God’s children best say, “Amen.” – JK
Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love
Country #10 | Pop #30
Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love
This is Me You’re Talking to
They Call it Falling For a Reason
Nothin’ ‘Bout Memphis
Let the Wind Chase You (with Keith Urban)
The Dreaming Fields
Cowboys are My Weakness
Not a Bad Thing
Nothin’ About You is Good For Me
Sing You Back to Me
A bit of a cheat here, since I reviewed this album upon its release and, fifteen years on, pretty much stand behind every word I wrote at the time. Heaven, Heartache, & The Power of Love is most interesting in the context of Yearwood’s career for how it broke her pattern of doing her finest work on the heels of her divorces. This album, instead, found Yearwood channeling the positive energy of her new relationship into the most dialed-in and passionate performances of her entire career.
The songs themselves highlight her ability to center her work around major themes, as each of these tracks falls into at least one of the “buckets” of the album’s title. She takes it to church on the fiery title track and sings hallelujah to the stars on the rapturous “Nothin’ ‘Bout Memphis.” She finds her heart broken by failed relationships on “This Is Me You’re Talking To” and “Nothin’ About You is Good for Me,” and by generational loss on her exquisite reading of Matraca Berg’s “The Dreaming Fields.” And she finds healing in the redemptive power of love on the deceptively funny “We Tried” and the playful “Cowboys Are My Weakness.” On a song-for-song basis, this is the best-written album in the catalogue of the artist with her generation’s best ear for quality material. That she sings the absolute fire out of those songs elevates the album into one that, but for some poor management by Big Machine, would stand as a genre classic. – JK
“This is Me You’re Talking to”
Written by Tommy Lee James and Karyn Rochelle
See, I can borrow from my old reviews, too!
I stand by that initial assessment. Yearwood gives a stunning vocal performance, with the drama heightening as the song progresses. Each successive wail of “Me!” digs the knife in deeper. One of the all-time best of one of the all-time best. – KJC
“They Call it Falling For a Reason”
Written by Matraca Berg and Jim Collins
Something of a spiritual sequel to Matraca Berg’s “If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me,” which she’d co-written with Annie Roboff for the Chicks. This relationship post-mortem documents the glorious high and the inevitable downfall that follows, but hey, “what are you supposed to do when you’ve been kissed like that?” – KJC
“Breaking Apart” (with Chris Isaak)
Written by Chris Isaak and Diane Warren
Did Not Chart
Chris Isaak is easily the best duet partner Yearwood’s been paired up with during this feature, at least as far as genuine duets with shared lead vocal responsibilities go. Don’t get scared off by the Diane Warren co-write. This has all the lonesomeness of the best Isaak tracks, and it hits that retro country vein that the Mavericks did so well in the nineties. When they take flight with the melody at the end of each chorus, it’s spine-tinglingly good. – KJC
A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective
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