Thinkin' About You

Trisha Yearwood

MCA Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/16/1998

When he's not otherwise occupied stealing material from H.P. Lovecraft, George Romero and the Home Shopping Network, Stephen King loves to indulge himself in repeating a favorite quote: "It is the tale, not he who tells it."

Country music tests that statement from both directions. At its best, country is about pure story-telling -- finding a unique point of view, or coming up with a creative spin on an old theme. That's what first got a self-admitted "if you aren't a writer, why should I care?" snob like me interested in country. Turns out some o' them cowpokes is purty clever when it comes to readin' 'n' writin'. (I understand Garth Brooks' platoon of accountants and financial advisors is also pretty good at 'rithmetic.)

The thing I still got hung up on at first, though, was the fact that some country artists -- like, for example, Trisha Yearwood -- DON'T EVEN WRITE ANY SONGS. They just choose from the thousands of songs written by professional Nashville songwriters every year and sing them. "How lame," said the snob to himself, "Why bother listening to a singer who can't even write a song?"my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

My meal of crow arrived in 1995 in the form this album. 'Cause Trisha Yearwood may not write a thing in the way of music, but she is without a doubt one of the very best singers in the business.

On Thinkin' About You, the fourth of her six all-cover albums to date, Yearwood picks up songs from multiple Nashville hit-makers (and solo artists) Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey, and, as usual, uses her rich, versatile voice to make them her own.

Berg contributes the hit "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," which rides high on Yearwood's letter-perfect delivery. The combination of fire and vulnerability she brings to the mike here is as all-American as it gets. In another remarkable vocal performance, Yearwood's interpretation of Richey's "Those Words We Said" is a emotional blender of ache, regret and determination, complemented nicely by a harmony vocal from The Mavericks' Raul Malo.

One of Yearwood's most interesting and effective choices is a cover of one of Melissa Etheridge's very best songs, the gentle yet intensely passionate ballad "You Can Sleep While I Drive." The fact that it works so well in Yearwood's hands speaks volume about both Etheridge's ability to write songs that are about people, not genders, and Yearwood's ability to plant herself firmly in the emotional driver's seat with her femininity intact.

Of all the "pretty" songs on this album -- and when you get a voice with the pureness and sureness of Yearwood's you're bound to turn up quite a few -- the most memorable is Peters' "On A Bus To St. Cloud." Incorporating a full orchestra, Yearwood carries the deeply melancholy lyric with a vulnerable yet perfectly modulated delivery. Catching fleeting glances of people who remind her of her former lover, she continually relives their break-up until she finishes, near despair, with "And I hate you some, and I love you some / But I miss you most."

Maybe it's the lack of pressure to write -- and expose herself to the world that way -- that endows Yearwood with the ability to bring so many subtle emotional shadings to these songs. Whatever the explanation, she's the best argument I know for paying more attention to the singer than the song. She didn't write the words, but she surely brings them to life.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.