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Album review: Martina McBride's 'Shine'

March 23, 2009 |  6:30 pm

Mcbride240 Martina McBride is one of country music's finest singers, one who has adeptly walked that precarious line between musical artistry and commercial success. But there are times on her 10th album, "Shine," that make you wish she'd focus more on the artistry and let the commercial aspect take care of itself.

Following her self-produced "Waking Up Laughing" two years ago, she's brought in Dann Huff (Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Faith Hill) to co-produce "Shine," and his ear for instrumental hooks and classic-rock production touches should pay off on radio and on the charts. But in relying so heavily on a phalanx of Nashville songwriting pros -- these 11 songs are the product of 32 credited writers -- there's a music-by-committee quality that inevitably creeps in.

McBride has staked out a niche as a voice of female empowerment, and there are several tracks here to fill that bill, starting with the album opener, "Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong," a pep talk that sounds pulled from a book of daily affirmations, while "You're Not Leaving Me" is a trifle of a rocker that seems designed for little more than punching up a concert set list.

Her real gift at making a song come alive emerges in material that digs deeper, such as Darrell Scott and Tia Sillers' "I'm Trying," about a couple struggling with the man's alcoholism. Mark Irwin and Josh Kear's "Wild Rebel Rose" skews even darker in its tale of child abuse that ends à la "Independence Day," her 1994 celebration of another creep who gets a comeuppance.

The chipper stuff obviously was chosen to provide some balance of tone, and balance is crucial when it comes to the network news, the federal budget or gymnastics. But in art, balance is like moderation: It's good if not carried to extremes.

-- Randy Lewis

Martina McBride

RCA Nashville
Two and a half stars