Trisha Yearwood - Prizefighter: Hit After Hit

Gwendolyn Records
RCA 88875024522

Over the course of ten albums, Trisha Yearwood has not only matured as an artist—exploring the full range of her vocal gift and plumbing her emotional soul to serve up music that has been moving and memorable—she has also maintained her artistic integrity in spite of the commercial demands that can all too often derail a true artist’s career. This 16-track set features six brand new songs along with ten of her biggest and best-known hits from her 23-year recording career. It is very much a portrait of a strong woman confident in the music she makes and must surely be Trisha’s crowning glory in a career full of magnificent albums. Though full of superb songs, at its core, it is that incredible voice that imbues each song with heart and soul.

She debuted as a tousle-tressed country ingenue who scored a number one single with her debut record, She’s In Love With The Boy back in 1991. That song is included here, along side such other memorable hits as Wrong Side Of Memphis, How Do I Live, XXX’s And OOO’s and The Song Remembers When. Rather than bunch all the familiar hits together, they’ve been integrated with the six new songs to create a well-balanced album that seamlessly flows from start to finish. Though I’ve been familiar with all of Trisha’s recordings from the very beginning, because the new and old fit together so well, at times I had to second guess which were the new tracks, which is a testament to the quality of her older material that it sits so comfortably with today’s recordings.

One of country’s most gifted singers, Trisha can be a subtle interpreter of songs, or she can just rear back and belt ’em out. She chooses the latter tack for the opening title song, Prize Fighter, which is very much in your face, but never overbearingly so, and works extremely well, as each metaphor-laden verse builds to a thickly layered, easily accessible chorus. Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love, a lesser-known hit from 2007, swoops and sweeps, enveloping and hooking you before you know it. It not only kicks butt as a tune, the lyric is also terrific, but it’s the ballads that make the long-lasting impact. She has a strong sense of emotion when singing about loss as in the lovelorn I Remember You, then gets into a nostalgic mood for Georgia Rain, a song that perfectly captures Trisha’s southern upbringing. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear her hubby Garth Brooks harmonising in the background. He also duets on In Another’s Eyes, a number two hit from 1997, which for me is the weakest track on the whole album. It’s the kind of over-the-top commercial country-pop bombast I dislike.

Trisha is at her best when retelling a story in song. A superb example of this is her version of Met Him In A Motel Room. The amazing power of an arresting voice and simple instrumentation knows no limits. Part of Trisha’s talent lies in her ability to move beyond the twangy confines of country—it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that at times she’s even more a pop artist than Taylor Swift —and yet still retains that down-home lilt in her voice. Country certainly is part of the mix (one of the best songs is the countryish Your Husband’s Cheatin’ On Us Again), but not exactly front and centre. No matter the style, the key to what makes Trisha Yearwood click is her voice. The Georgian has range, depth of feeling and the ability to do so with the kind of panache and style that leaves others quivering in her wake.