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Martina McBride

Eleven – 2011 (Republic Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Martina McBride

Martina McBride changes labels for her 11th disc and a bit of a change in approach as well as she goes outside of her comfort zone. McBride still possesses one of the greatest voices out there in country, but she tones it down a lot, generally avoiding the big sweeping vocal songs where she belts it out.

Marry Me, with help from Train's Pat Monahan, is a low-key, mid-tempo effort with a bit of pedal steel and softness in vocals that make the song work. That tender quality comes through again on the closing Long Distance Lullaby where less may be more.

McBride, of course, aims for more of a pop sound (the mid-tempo Broken Umbrella with horns and airy vocals) in her material. McBride ventures into a bluesy and soulful feel on the soft You Can Get Your Lovin' Right Here, one of six songs McBride helped write.

The closest that McBride gets to trademark female-anthem type song is the second single I'm Gonna Love You Through It, about a mother with three kids who gets cancer and needs the support of her husband to make it through. The lyrics are too heavy handed to make a musical impact, although doubtlessly the story could be real. Still, there is the sense that the lyrics hit the listener over the head.

Throughout her career, McBride has performed songs that ring true. On this disc, it's Teenage Daughters, which she wrote with the brothers Warren, about parents watching their kids grow up.

The big McBride vocals are hardly found anywhere on the disc. Instead, McBride tones it down with a set of lower-key material, while maturing gracefully.