Stephen King tells us "Talent is cheaper than table salt." And what a shaker-full is contained on Martina McBride's latest. Songwriters? Hillary Lindsey, Sarah Buxton and Liz Rose are amongst the world's finest. For a producer, how about Faith Hill's or Taylor Swift's? And lest we forget - McBride herself possesses the best, hemi-powered soprano of any working singer today. This is gaudy, Dream Team level stuff. So, why isn't it better?
It's been McBride's curse for a long time - finding a collection of songs to match her gift. Too many of these tunes are thin in some regard. "That's the Thing About Love" sounds closer to a commercial jingle than a radio-ready single. "Everybody Wants to Be Loved" has an epic, orchestral ending like it's drilled into something profound. But with rushed lyrics that seem almost improvised, it's hard to imagine a legion of listeners agreeing.
Still, there are some highlights. The lead title single, with its new country polish and power, is the star of the show. And there's some rich poetry on the weeper "Low All Afternoon." Two closing tracks ("We'll Pick Up Where We Left Off" and "You and You Alone") suggest a whole other, better, record - one with sweet groove and cabaret charm. But on balance, there's too many missed opportunities here. Why, for example, invite Keith Urban and Buddy Miller for backup vocals only? Wouldn't even a casual fan suggest having them sing a verse or play an instrument?
This was an eagerly-anticipated record on many accounts - it's McBride's return to country after an experimental venture into R&B. And it's her first for the new Nash Icon label, reserved exclusively for deep-career superstars. Big Machine revitalized Tim McGraw's career, and many predicted similar magic. But this is the sound of gifted people resting on their laurels. The rest of the King quote goes, "What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." It's time for McBride to look beyond the A-List for a team that tries harder.