If you've ever heard Martina McBride sing O Holy Night
or Over the Rainbow
, maybe you've felt the goosebumps with her unmistakable, soaring soprano. In a genre full of splendid singers, McBride's voice stands atop them all.
But, as anybody's who's spent more than five minutes around show business can tell you, having the most talent is only a good start. McBride has had trouble filling albums with songs equal to her instrument, and she's locked horns with her record company. This release was her last for RCA Nashville, with whom she parted ways in 2010.
It's a fair question to ask if this collection represents a money grab. Two other "Best of" Martina compilations precede it, and 11 of the 20 tracks did feature on 2001's "Greatest Hits." This set does exceed the earlier attempts, however, by ditching non-essentials and including a hefty number of tracks. Most importantly, it covers recent history. McBride's released some of her signature songs within the last 10 years: In My Daughter's Eyes, This One's For the Girls and Anyway.
Any country radio listener already knows whether they like the older material. The lush love ballad Valentine, with its superb piano work, would still carry many a wedding day dance. I Love You is still irresistibly catchy, and the feminist anthem Independence Day hasn't lost any of its power over time.
Unfortunately the unreleased tracks, which may simply be the only "new" leftovers on hand, can't keep up to those landmarks. The plodding Straight to the Bone makes a mess. It's a slow walk through tall brush, a song in search of a melody. Surrender hits a snag as well, with a hook that hasn't sharpened enough. But these hiccups couched inside such an impressive body of work, and a voice that won't be forgotten in this century, can be forgiven.