Martina McBride, Timeless

Martina_McBride-Timeless-FrontalMartina McBride
RCA Records Label

“It all begins with a song”–the old songwriters’ adage–proves perfectly apt in the case of Martina McBride’s newest album, Timeless. For this record (her first solo production), Martina chose to pay homage to her roots by recording an album of classic country songs. The result is an 18-song tribute to the beauty of country music’s heritage sung by one of the genre’s present-day greats.

One of the wonderful things about the record is that Martina chose songs that aren’t necessarily what you immediately think of when asked to name country classics. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette–all the greats are represented here. But would Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” have been the first song you’d have thought of? What about Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks a Lot”? These “deep cuts” from the history of country singles make the record more engrossing.

Don’t think this means there’s no familiar material. Martina turns in a brighter and bolder version of Anderson’s “Rose Garden” and a faithful reading of Loretta’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Dwight Yoakum sings the harmony on Price’s “Heartaches by the Numbers” and instantly turns it into a modern classic.

All the songs benefit from faithful arrangements and a live recording. There’s great space in the sound for the pianos and lap-steels to play. Not weighed down by the layered, over-produced sound of many modern records, Timeless is, well, timeless.

If “it all begins with a song,” then it all ends with a singer. Martina sings everything with a reverence for the material and real joy in her voice. It’s the sort of spot-on performance from a singer who is completely in sync with her material. Martina stacked the deck in her favor by selecting beautiful tunes, but it’s her winsome and capable voice that makes this collection timeless.

[This piece appeared in the City Paper.]