Jo Dee Messina

Unmistakable: Love – 2010 (Curb)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Jo Dee Messina

If at first you don't succeed, your record company will punish you. That's what Jo Dee Messina learned in the past five years. What was one new album has now been converted into a trilogy of EPs to be released over the course of 2010 and grouped loosely by topic. This breaks the deadlock of Messina's wish to offer up all the new music she's been making against the business requirement of a monster hit. Messina's had a lot of those (nine number ones), so maybe it wasn't wholly unfair. But three singles in the last three years sputtered, so the bosses repeatedly shelved the album.

Messina was frustrated by the experience, as thinly veiled in the liner notes, but overall is happier than ever. She's recently married, sober and now the mother of a little boy. So "Unmistakable" (Part 1) celebrates love, especially the transformative, permanent kind. It's has that new-new country sound indistinguishable from other Adult Contemporary artists.

But her voice still packs a wallop that not all of them have (Exhibit A, Welcome to the Rest of My Life). One questions the repetition of theme - this world's hard, but our love protects us - in a collection of only seven new songs. But rounded out with two intimate bonus tracks (there's a warm acoustic take on Stand Beside Me), it's not a bad start on this three-part journey. The two standouts are the lush title track, and Always Have Always Will, which joyously lifts an Aerosmith drum line to relay the merits of making peace with the past. Take it from a lady who knows.