There's so many inspiring messages of faith overcoming adversity that one suddenly...
Sue Keogh 2003
Reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Martina McBride has always championed the cause of women, with hits like ''A Broken Wing'', Independence Day and ''When God Fearin' Women Get The Blues'' all celebrating women who have had enough of their abusive husbands, stir their last batch of gravy and summon up the strength to leave. Lead off single for the new album, ''This One's For The Girls'', continues on the same sisterhood theme, tracking the life time of women from teen to middle age with real vigour and backing vocals from Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Faith Hill, songwriters Aimee Mayo and Hillary Lindsey and McBride's daughters.
But there can be too much of a good thing. Recording the album in their new recording studio at home in Nashville gave McBride and her producer husband, John, the freedom to record at their own pace without the record company looking over their shoulders. Perhaps this is what led them to be a touch self-indulgent with the subject matter. There's so many inspiring messages of faith overcoming adversity that one suddenly remembers why country music doesn't work over here in cynical old Britain. ''So Magical'' for example is one of those 'Hello birds! Hello sky!' songs in which she beams, 'Don't wanna to miss a minute of today, it's so magical'. And it gets worse as the album progresses; the slow and anthemic ''In My Daughter's Eyes'' ('...everyone is equal, darkness turns to light and the world is at peace etc.'), ''Learning To Fall'', with its metaphors of tearing down the walls she's built around herself, and, most wincingly of all, ''Gods Will''. Nothing to do with the orders of the Lord above, but a tale of a young crippled boy called Will (geddit?) whose father has left home and whose Mom has to work two jobs just to make ends meet. Do not listen to this song.
As the live version of ''Over The Rainbow'' at the end proves, McBride's voice is in great shape, and by default Martina will spawn a couple of top ten singles. But it's lacking the edge to rival her earlier albums, and more importantly, is not distinctive enough to help her hang onto that CMA crown for a second year running.