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Martina McBride

Everlasting – 2014 (Alliance)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by Martina McBride

When an established artist is somewhat "in between" albums, a greatest hits package can often bridge that gap. Or a live album. Or perhaps a cringe-worthy Christmas album. If you're Rod Stewart you can create a cottage industry from old standards.

But few decide to try to enhance or pay tribute to old soul songs that can almost never be duplicated. However Martina McBride decided to go down that road on her latest offering with acclaimed producer Don Was helping out. And while some might love the record for the selections McBride has chosen, it's not exactly a spine-tingling journey throughout.

That isn't to say McBride doesn't have the pipes to nail songs like the opener "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," a tune made famous by Aretha Franklin. It's just that the intangibles that would make Franklin dig deep for those spectacular moments are essentially glossed over on this strong, but far from memorable effort. The same can be said for the pedestrian, horn-tinged "Suspicious Minds." Here she slows down the arrangement with the horns and backing female vocalists off in the distance. The Dwight Yoakam rendition and even the Fine Young Cannibals cover pack far more intensity.

Fortunately, when the arrangement suits the singer, things gel as is the case with "If You Don't Know Me By Now" that glides along thanks to McBride's sinfully precise delivery. Meanwhile she also ups the ante with The Supremes' "Come See About Me." The song is given a '60s girl-group goodness that would be a great party starter. But perhaps the crowning achievement is how gentle yet great the singer pours herself into "I've Been Loving You Too Long," the Otis Redding classic McBride gives with Shelby Lynne-like sincerity.

A stab at Van Morrison's "Wild Night" does little for the album despite probably being the busiest-sounding tune of the dozen offered up. And the bluesy toe-tapper "My Babe" has McBride at her sultry best but comes off more like filler than anything else. McBride nails another one out of the park with the gorgeous (and again gentle) number "To Know Him Is To Love Him" originally done by The Teddy Bears. She definitely cuddles into this tune from the get go.

Finally two duets on the record don't add much to the proceedings. Gavin DeGraw's work on "Bring It On Home To Me" is fine but compared to Sam Cooke, er, not that fine. The duo of McBride and Kelly Clarkson for "In The Basement" is rather ordinary with very little spark.

Martina McBride has a great voice, there is no doubt about that. But this collection is more of a hit and miss despite the hits assembled here.