2015 CD REVIEW
PRIZEFIGHTER HIT AFTER HIT (SONY-GWENDOLYN-RCA)
TRISHA YEARWOOD AND KELLY CLARKSON HIT THE ROPES
“When you hit the ground, you find your wings/ you go one more round when that bell rings/ they say you're done, but here you come/ you're a hammer hittin', spittin' fire, PrizeFighter / when you're sweating from the fear, you look it the eye/ turn the sound of defeat into your battle cry/ stakes are down, you're outta luck/ look at you, smiling with a shiner, standing higher.” - PrizeFighter - Jessi Alexander-Sarah Buxton-Ross Copperman.
They consummate their vocal nuptials in new power ballad In Another's Eyes where Brooks splits songwriting royalties with John Peppard and Bobby Wood.
The Georgian, now 50, says her new album might be the result of a seven-year itch after her career slowed after Brooks entered retirement in 2001.
Two albums followed - 2005's Jasper County and 2007's Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love - country chart tops eluded her.
Georgia Rain peaked at 15 in 2005 and the title track from Heaven #19 in 2007 before she took a prolonged break from 2007-2014.
The singer found herself full-time in Trisha's Southern Kitchen , her hit Food Network show, best-selling cookbooks and, now, personal cutlery line that developed.
Her mother's death also occurred while she shared Brooks' designated retirement time with him in Oklahoma, enjoying having her stepchildren at home.
So it's no coincidence she stepped back into the spotlight the same year as Garth with his new album Man Against Machine .
Although Trisha did small-scale solo touring she enjoyed doing mid-show sets on her husband's tours.
And, keeping it all in the family, she also signed with Sony to give fans a souvenir in the form of PrizeFighter that mixes greatest hits with new material.
Yearwood's seven year music hiatus was never dull.
“I don't think when you make an album you say to yourself OK, I'm turning in this album and I'm gonna wait seven years and then I'm gonna release another album,” she explained.
“You know, life happens, and for me a lot of that was moving to Oklahoma, marrying Garth, being a stepmom - a bonus mom - to these three girls, and really being involved in that life. And that is a fulltime job. And that started right after I finished the album before this. And then most people know that my mom got ill and I went and lived with her and she passed away from cancer, and I spent time with her that I am so glad that I spent. I moved in with her for the last few months; it was a fantastic-good time that I'm so glad that I did. And then the cooking show came along out of doing these cookbooks, which really I did because I love to cook. I mean, it really wasn't a calculated “someday I'd like to have a cooking show” - it just happened, and it really was a fulltime job. So any time anything went to the back of the stack, it was music. Living in Oklahoma, I knew I wasn't going to be touring heavily any time soon. So when Garth and I decided when our youngest graduated we would talk about going back out on the road, I knew I wanted to have new music - and here it is, finally.”
MATERNAL GRIEF AND CELEBRATION
“I can picture you, like a photograph/ I can see your smile/ I can hear your laugh/ no I don't have to look back/ I remember you.” - I Remember You - Benjamin Curtis Caver- Kelly Archer-Brad Rempel.
Yearwood's new 16 song disc mixes 10 revamps of big hits with six new songs including the title track featuring Texan Kelly Clarkson.
“Having been off the road for a while, having not made a record for a while I certainly wanted to have new music, and after seven years I wanted to not just say “Here's your two new songs, that's all you get,” Yearwood revealed.
“I wanted to give more than that, so there are six new cuts. But at the same time She's In Love with the Boy came out in 1991 and there are people coming to our shows that weren't even born when that song was released. So I started thinking about, if you were coming to a live show and you heard She's in Love With the Boy and XXX's and OOO's and those songs that you came to hear, and you also hear PrizeFighter , you want to walk out of there with a CD that has everything on it. So I love it, because it's kind of the best of everything for me. It's got all the hits on there that I can't imagine doing a live show and not singing, plus new things.”
So what about the title track featuring Clarkson?
“ PrizeFighter was a song that really just picked me,” she added.
“I mean, I'm not that girl who is really known for singing kind of anthem-like songs. When I heard the lyrics to “PrizeFighter,” it would be cliché to say that it knocked me out, but it really did. It's not about one particular struggle. It's about all the different struggles that people have. Especially doing it live, I'm seeing and hearing people's stories of why they latch on to it. And of course it's everything from someone who's struggling with cancer or survived cancer. Yesterday I met a young man who had a tragic accident and was paralyzed and he's made it his anthem, that I'm not gonna give up, I'm gonna fight. I could see the fight in his eyes. So there's so many levels that it resonates with different people, depending on what your particular battle is.”
So did Clarkson instantly come to mind?
“She did. The demo had a harmony above it and it was a challenging song for me - it's a wailing song,” Yearwood says.
“I thought, it's gotta be someone that can wail. I couldn't have done that part. She's the most down-to-earth person that has no idea how incredibly talented she is. We're very similar in that we don't believe our own hype.”
Trisha's sister Beth Bernard sings on I Remember You - definitely not the Frank Ifield tune - that touches on their mother's death.
“ I Remember You is a song that really hit home for me,” Yearwood confessed.
“Most people that know anything about me know I'm a family girl and I was super close to both my parents; now I've lost both of them. There's something about losing one parent, it changes your relationship with the other parent. But then when you lose the second parent you really truly feel like, OK, I'm really on my own now. I really have to grow up now. It's a dynamic that you can't explain to anybody until they experience it, and you don't want to be in that club until you have to be in that club. My mom's passing is fresher, so I really think about her a lot when I sing this song. But it's not a sad song to me. It's an emotional song. It's a hopeful song. And one of the things my husband did for me for my 50th birthday was he surprised me and he flew my sister Beth into Nashville from Georgia to sing harmony on the song. I didn't even know - he flew her in, she sang it, she went back home. I came to listen to the mix and I heard this angelic, beautiful voice that I knew well, and I knew it was my sister, but I couldn't figure out how it was my sister. And so it was probably one of the most amazing gifts anybody could've ever given me. I dissolved into a puddle, of course, and then talked to her and found out she dissolved into a puddle pretty much when she was trying to sing it. I really didn't know she was on the track at all until I heard the playback. You know how you get emotional, and then there's the ugly cry? I went right to the ugly cry. It's an emotional song for me, and her too. She's really shy and sings in the church choir. That was the ultimate birthday present, and it made it even more special than it already was.
"The first time I heard it, I was hooked. I was in. I actually recorded it with a full band, and there was something about the guitar on the demo by Ben Caver, one of the writers. I called him and said, I want to record it but there's something about your guitar that is haunting me. So I asked him to do a guitar vocal with me. He did, and that's the record."
TRISHA PARODIES CHEATING QUADRANGLE
“I said never mind those fantasies/ of cyanide or taking out a hit/ and anyway it's better, don't you think/ to make him wish that he was dead/ just promise me you'll take that creep/ for everything he's ever had instead/ I've got a Polaroid camera/ and a room number down at the hotel Nautilus/ where your husband's cheatin' on us.” - Your Husband's Cheating On Us - Matraca Berg-Marshall Chapman-Jill McCorkle
Trivia buffs may note there's a trilogy of armed robberies - Wrong Side Of Memphis and Walkaway Joe, featuring a duet with another Texan Don Henley of Eagles fame, with its video featuring yet another Texan - actor Matthew McConaughey.
The third You Can't Trust The Weatherman was first cut by bluegrass band Cadillac Sky .
The song tells of a disastrous wedding ceremony, weather wise, that became prophetic of storms they would face months metaphorically down the line.
"When you listen to songs like Walkaway Joe today, everything is swimming in reverb,” Yearwood explained.
“It's still beautiful, but it's dated. So we conducted a science experiment. We got the original players, went into the original studios and told them we wanted to re-create their part exactly. Matt Rollings said, 'Are you kidding me?' I said, I know, because when you hire a musician, you want them to come in and be creative and do something different. I just want people to think the quality sounds great and not realize it's not the same. Don Henley came in and redid his part on Walkaway Joe , and I went in and tried to phrase the same and everything. It sounds like a contemporary mix of the same song."
There's also another narcotic narrative about a runaway teenage girl and older lover in She's In Love With The Boy penned by another Texan Jon Ims.
But let's focus on one of two new triangle songs - Your Husband's Cheating On Us .
It's penned by prolific Matraca Berg - singing spouse of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band bassist Jeff Hanna - Marshall Chapman and Jill McCorkle.
“It is naughty. When I heard it, I thought, that's so bad," Yearwood confided.
“And I liked it but I never thought I'd record it. But then I thought, what the hell, I'm going to record it anyway. Anyone that hears it thinks it's a fun song, but it's wrong on so many levels. Musically it has this Bobbie Gentry vibe that's so cool.”
It shares similarities with Oklahoma star Carrie Underwood's smash hit Two Black Cadillacs .
This time it's a conversational tale of two women who team to plot the downfall of the man who wronged them by adding a third woman to the mix.
The song is not about Yearwood but she has a penchant for narratives.
“If I think back over She's in Love With the Boy and The Song Remembers When , they're stories, and I love songs that tell stories. I think there's room for everything and I think when we start trying to ask what should I record that will get me played? Well, you have to really record music because it moves you in some way.”
The other new cheating song is End Of The World penned by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Trevor Rosen.
SHE MET HIM IN A MOTEL ROOM
“She met Him in a motel room/ with a bottle full of sleeping pills/ and a long, long list of sins/ she'd already planned on checking out before she checked in/ she was gonna leave a goodbye note / just needed paper and a pen/ and with the vacancy light blinking red/ she found that bible in the drawer beside the bed/ some people meet Him in a church/ she met Him in a motel room/ some people meet Him in a church/ at a service on Sunday.” - She Met Him In A Motel Room - Rory Lee Feek-Jamie Teachenor.
The artistic peak may be not so cryptic She Met Him In A Motel Room penned by Rory Lee Feek of Joey & Rory and Jamie Teachenor.
Yearwood wraps her vocals around the tale of a woman who checks in with the intent of suicide before finding a Bible in a bedside table.
While the lyrics are purposefully ambiguous Yearwood's delivery is full of hope and poignancy.
On orchestral ballad Georgia Rain, featuring Brooks backing vocals, she sensually maximizes the power of her voice and innuendo as she can't decide whether ‘the heart in my chest or the hood of that Ford beat faster.
Monster hit, How Do I Live , benefits from maturity Yearwood's voice gained in 17 years since she first recorded it.
It was originally on the soundtrack to Con Air ?
Texan LeAnn Rimes also cut it but Yearwood's re-recording maturely captures the nuances and pathos in Diane Warren's melody and lyrics.
By contrast to earlier singles the title track to previous album Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love is a raucous affair replete with banjo, organs and Yearwood's untarnished belting
The album ends with atmospheric, reflective The Song Remembers When penned by another Texan - Hugh Prestwood.
Yearwood is already working on another album.
“Yes, it will be all new songs,” Trisha confided.
“I already have songs. I'm excited about the opportunity to make a record with all new music. I don't know when I'll get started on it, probably early this year. I'm definitely not going to take seven years to make a record again.”
What about turning 50?
“I'm pretty immature. I feel 15!”
And the artist's aim?
“Well, as an artist you always want to get played on the radio and have hits, but at this point, 23 years in the music business, I knew I was going on the biggest tour but I didn't have any expectations for country radio,” Yearwood says.
“I just thought, I'm a woman, I'm 50 years old. Let's see what happens. But when I heard PrizeFighter I got really excited. If I have a shot to get played on radio, then this song is probably it.
“You want to sell records, but if you want to call yourself an artist, your job is how you express yourself. If you're a painter, you don't go, abstract's really selling so that's what I'm going to do. If you're really truly an artist, you have to think what you're meant to paint. I've patterned myself after my musical heroes. The name that pops into my head is Emmylou Harris - I think about her song choices, but I don't know what her album sales have been. I think it's about the quality she makes and she's still been very successful. If you record a song you love, then you're going to win. But if everyone is telling you it's going to be a hit record and you hate it, then you have to sing a record you hate every night. And you just sold your soul for the radio.
“When I first started making records, I was referred to as more contemporary. I listened to Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, but my big influences were Emmylou and Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt, so I wasn't really put in the traditional country music category. Oddly, the way country music has changed, I'm probably more traditional than most of what's out there, but I am still really true to the roots I grew up with.”