Music News & Reviews

McBride still shines

Martina McBride is no stranger to hit singles and albums, having enjoyed consistent success for much of her 15-years-plus recording career in country music. But she realized that her recently released album, "Shine," might be something a little different for her when she got some early feedback from her father. "He said to me ... 'I feel like some of your songs, you kind of have to live with them for a while,' " McBride said in a phone interview. But with her new album, he said, 'I feel like I've heard these songs before. When I listened to them for the first time, it sounded familiar.'

"So I think in some ways this record is probably more commercial and maybe a little more carefree," said McBride, who returns to her home state on Friday for a concert at Hartman Arena.

The idea that "Shine" might be the most commercial album of McBride's career is just one of the ways in which the singer from Sharon is feeling a sense of renewal and freshness about her music, her career and her life.

But it wasn't that long ago that she was feeling anything but refreshed. She readily admits that after her 2003 CD, "Martina," she felt she had hit a wall creatively.

"I think a lot of artists hit that point where you've made seven or eight albums," McBride said. "You've sung about everything. All the songs you get pitched, it's really hard to find stuff that you haven't already sung about or songs that you don't feel you've already done."

In addition, "Martina" marked the end of what had been a fruitful collaboration with her producer, Paul Worley. After that album, they both realized they had taken things as far as they could go and really didn't know where to go next musically.

McBride went on to self-produce "Timeless," her 2005 album of classic country covers, and then her 2007 studio CD, "Waking Up Laughing."

But going into "Shine," she felt she could again benefit from having a producer. She hired Dann Huff, a rising star in production circles around Nashville. This new partnership, McBride said, has a lot to do with her feeling recharged creatively.

"We talked about doing it for years, and all of a sudden it just felt like I was ready for that," McBride said of the decision to hire Huff for "Shine."

If "Shine" is indeed her most commercial album, McBride said Huff deserves much of the credit for bringing that dimension to her music.

"He has a way of listening for a hook," McBride said. "If it (a song) doesn't have a really strong melodic hook he's not real interested in it."

That melodic dimension is readily apparent on "Shine," first of all with ballads such as "Walk Away" and "I Just Call You Mine." But the biggest musical surprise might be the presence of several highly catchy rockers, a notable development considering McBride has been known largely for ballads and midtempo songs.

The best of the rockers is "Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong," the feisty album-opening track that sounds like a surefire hit single.

"It's funny because I have that aspect to my personality and to my musical tastes," McBride said. "And my live show, obviously, rocks a lot harder than my records. Dann helped draw that out of me on this record."

The sense of renewal that McBride is feeling extends beyond her music and into her life overall. McBride's two oldest girls are now in high school and middle school — she's a married mother of three daughters — and this is giving her career a second wind.

"I feel like they're more self-sufficient and I have more energy to focus on my career," McBride said, noting she hasn't been able to tour as extensively as would have been ideal and probably has missed out on opportunities for things like television appearances that could have raised her profile.

"I feel like there's so much to accomplish," she said of her career. "The touring part of my career obviously is growing still, and I'm excited about that. This is really only the second or third tour that I've headlined, so there's lots of room (to grow) there."

The current tour is an extended run of dates co-headlining with Trace Adkins. McBride thinks the bill makes sense both musically and in terms of the fans the two artists draw.

"Obviously, our music is different in many ways, but it's also a lot alike in a lot of ways," McBride said. "We both have songs about social issues and about family, so in some ways I think it's a great match."

If you go

martina mcbride

What: The country singer from Kansas in concert with Trace Adkins

Where: Hartman Arena, 8151 N. Hartman Arena Drive, Park City

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4.

How much: Tickets $25-$69.75, available at the Hartman Arena box office, online at www.stage1tickets.com, or by calling 888-755-2583.

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