A Trisha Yearwood Retrospective, Part Six: 2005-2009

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.

 

“Georgia Rain”

Written by Ed Hill and Karyn Rochelle

2005

Country #15 | Pop #78

Grade: B+

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

 

Jasper County

2005

United States:

Country #1 (2 weeks) | Pop #4

Track Listing:

Who Invented the Wheel

Pistol

Trying to Love You

River of You

Baby Don’t You Let Go

Standing Out in a Crowd

Georgia Rain

Sweet Love

Try Me 

Gimme the Good Stuff

It’s Alright

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

2005

Country #52 | AC #28

Grade: D

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

2005

#23

Grade: F

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

 

Greatest Hits

2007

United States:

Country #2 | Pop #22

Track Listing:

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)

Everybody Knows

How Do I Live

Perfect Love

There Goes My Baby

Powerful Thing

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

2007

#19

Grade: A

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

2007

United States:

Country #10 | Pop #30

Track Listing:

Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love

This is Me You’re Talking to

They Call it Falling For a Reason

Nothin’ ‘Bout Memphis

We Tried

Let the Wind Chase You (with Keith Urban)

The Dreaming Fields

Cowboys are My Weakness

Help Me

Not a Bad Thing

Nothin’ About You is Good For Me

Drown 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

2008

#25

Grade:  A

Flawless.

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

2008

#54

Grade: A

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

2009

Did Not Chart

Grade: B+

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

Previous: Part Five: 2000-2002 | Next: Part Seven: 2013-2021

10 Comments

  1. Another great set of releases from Trisha. Jasper County hasn’t aged super well in my estimation (the production sounded ever so slightly dated even back in 2005, and it hasn’t gotten better with time), but Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love is probably the Trisha album I listen to the most. What an incredibly varied, lively, thoughtful collection of songs! And it’s an album with so many surprises and tricks up its sleeves–off the top of my head, I’m thinking of the overwhelming-in-a-good-way horns on “Nothin’ ‘Bout Memphis,” the perfectly judged Keith Urban harmony on “Let the Wind Chase You,” the smile you can hear in Trisha’s delivery of the line “And the scarecrow that just scared me” in “Dreaming Fields.” Every song is full of these amazing textures and nooks and crannies, and I never tire of revisiting them. Plus, this album is home to one of my favorite songs in Trisha’s catalog: “Not a Bad Thing.” A perfect marriage of performance, top-notch songwriting, and complementary production, this deceptively tricky song is–to my ears, at least–a perfect slice of pop country, with some engaging storytelling details and a full-bodied vocal by our queen. Fifteen years and hundreds of listens later, Trisha’s reading of the lines “There’s a tug on the edge of my heart / It’s you again, saying ‘Don’t you start / letting go of me’ / But I’m not listening” still takes my breath away. I mean, come on! This should’ve been a huge radio hit.

    2
  2. Reading about “Love Will Always Win” I realised the version of that song I know best is the one by Faith Hill!
    Great retrospective on Trisha though. I must go and listen to her albums again.

  3. Heaven Heartache and the Power of Love is my favorite Yearwood album, which is pretty impressive considering how far into her career it was released.

  4. I would say that the track “They Call It Falling For A Reason” was probably the best single she had out during the first decade of this century; and it’s not because she does quite well with material that she records which was written by Matraca Berg, the ultimate go-to female songwriter in Music City. It’s also not the first time this has ever been said about the way Trisha sometimes phrases certain words, but here she really does echo her spiritual role model Linda Ronstadt’s phrasing, especially on her classic country-rock albums of 1975-1980 (albums that Trisha intimately conencted with in her youth).

    It is a truly sad lost opportunity that Trisha and Linda were never able to get into the studio to do at least one song together (possibly another Matraca Berg-penned gem) before Linda’s voice was forever silenced by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. Still, “They Call It Falling For A Reason” is a nice way of paying homage (IMHO).

    • “They Call it Falling For a Reason” is a great single. I wouldn’t rank it as her very best of the decade, but it’s in my top five alongside “Where are You Now,” “I Don’t Paint Myself into Corners,” “Real Live Woman,” and “This is Me You’re Talking To.”

      I would’ve loved a Yearwood/Ronstadt collaboration, and a Matraca Berg song would’ve been the perfect vehicle. How amazing would it have been if they’d paired up for a cover of “Back When We Were Beautiful?”

      • I think a lot happened to both Trisha and Linda as individuals during that time. Trisha lost both of her parents, her father prior to Heaven being released, and her mother in the twelve years between that album and Let’s Be Frank; while Linda kept on singing, even though she was gradually losing the ability to focus her voice (though she wouldn’t have it diagnosed until 2013, and then not properly diagnosed until late 2019).

        In Trisha’s case, I think it also became more and more difficult for those of her gender to get their music played on the radio given that, by 2013, the Bromeisters had so thoroughly taken over the country music airwaves. The genre just doesn’t seem to respect the thoughtful approach that Trisha’s music so often takes anymore, to be perfectly honest.

  5. Yep, this era for Trisha happened when I was really losing a lot of faith in country radio and mainstream country for the first time. The songs were still great, though, and Trisha continued to sound as good as ever.

    “Georgia Rain” only peaking at #15 was just one more reason why I was souring on country radio by this time. Looking back, it’s actually a bit surprising that it even got that high since it hardly got played as much on any of our stations. On any of the few times I did hear it, it was certainly a cause for celebration, and it was sonically AND lyrically such a breath of fresh air compared to much of what else was on the radio around the same time. I was also a full blown Trisha Yearwood fan by this time, having acquired most, if not all of her 90’s albums by then. It’s just a beautiful song all around, and you can leave it up to Trisha to put out a much better (and deeper) song about recalling youthful years and falling in love in the back of a truck than many others have done since then.

    I have to disagree about “Trying To Love You,” as I actually quite loved it then, and I still do now. That it flopped as a single only fueled more fire for my ever growing dislike for country radio in the mid 00’s. For me, it was once again such a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of what radio WAS playing around that time. Sonically, at least, it always reminded me of something she might’ve done in the mid 90’s. I always loved the video with the horses, as well. In end though, perhaps it may not have been the best idea to release two ballads in a row, especially since Trisha had been absent for so long, and radio was trending further away from mature ballads in general, especially the kind that she usually sang.

    As much as I loved the Jasper County album back then, I do have to agree with those that say it hasn’t aged quite as well as her other albums, not really because of the production (which I still like), but because, as others already mentioned, the material is not quite as consistent as most of her 90’s records or even the album after it, imo.

    Again, I’m pleasantly surprised to look back and see that “Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love” actually crept into the top 20 at #19. On the first time I actually heard it on the radio, it once again felt great to hear her on the radio again, this time with a more fun song that actually sounded country compared to a lot of what else was being played.

    I’m even MORE surprised to see that “This Is Me You’re Talking To,” made it to #25, since I don’t recall hearing it on either of our stations even once. Regardless, it’s an incredibly beautiful song, and it’s become another one of my favorite ballads from her. I really love her emotional performance of each chorus, especially, and the beautiful melody in the verses. I also enjoy the music video featuring John Corbett and the beautiful night time snowy street setting which was simply perfect for the song.

    I also really LOVE “They Call It Falling For A Reason.” It’s another winning effort from both Matraca Berg and Trisha, and I absolutely love the energy in her performance and the production. It just really gets me so pumped and feeling good! What an absolute shame that radio and/or the label pretty much pulled the plug on this era by the time it was a single.

    I agree that the Heaven, Heartache and the Power Of Love album is a lot more solid and consistent than its predecessor, and it has aged better production wise, as well. Besides the singles, some of my other favorites on it are “We Tried,” “Let The Wind Chase You,” “Not A Bad Thing” (love Terri Clark’s version, too), “Help Me,” and “Dreaming Fields.” For me, there is absolutely no good reason why Trisha couldn’t have remained a consistent hit maker in this part of her career, nor a good reason for radio not making room for its quality singles.

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with the majority on “Love Will Always Win.” The two do sound great together, but unfortunately they ended up collaborating on mostly material that was beneath each of their talents, imo (I haven’t heard their Christmas album, yet, so that doesn’t count). I actually liked it when it first came out, because I just simply liked hearing both Garth and Trisha on the radio again, but it wasn’t long before I realized just how bland the song itself was.

    Omg, how did I miss that duet with Chris Isaak?! I’ve always loved me some Chris Isaak, as well, and a duet with Trisha has me interested right away. Just listened, and I quite enjoyed it! Especially love how their voices blend together on all the falsetto notes, which is simply beautiful. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to hearing what a duet between her and Roy Orbison would’ve been like.

    • Re. “Love Will Always Win”: I think the disappointment there may be the result of a lot of fans predicting (and wanting) for such a duet to take place, and to have such lofty expectations. But with such conditions in place, that means that anything even slightly less than world-shaking from Trisha and Garth might very well come off as a massive letdown. Such is often the way (IMHO).

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