Martina McBride - 'Eleven'

Martina McBride's 11th studio album - aptly entitled Eleven - was released on 11th October this year. With eleven tracks there is perhaps a slight over-use of the eleven theme but that is so inconsequential when you hear the strength of the album. Martina has been recording since 1992 when her debut album The Time Has Come was released under RCA Records but has moved over to Republic Nashville to release Eleven.

Eleven as a whole is very similar to a lot of Martina's other albums but it also has different songs such as Always Be This Way and Broken Umbrella. It is nice to hear Martina try different influences in her songs and if you listen to Martina's earlier albums you can see an obvious bluegrass influence but as country music has progressed and acts such as Lady Antebellum and Sugarland have opened the way for more of a rockier sound Martina has progressed along with them and has released songs such as Ride and One Night. Martina also had crossover success with the song I Love You from her fifth studio album Emotion.

All of the songs on the album are very strong and for me there are several stand out songs. Always Be This Way was a brave song from a country music artist due to strong reggae influences behind it. It is lovely to hear country singers trying different things and while this album still has the basic Martina sound, she has tried new ideas and new arrangements with many of the songs. Another very strong song on the album is Broken Umbrella with both country influences and big band influences courtesy of the horn section. The song is very cleverly produced and the horn section adds to the dynamic of the song rather than overpowering the vocals. I personally prefer the rockier side of Martina's voice so I've found myself drawn to songs such as One Night and Broken Umbrella from the album rather than songs like Marry Me and Long Distance Lullaby.

Martina uses emotionally stirring songs very well in all of her albums, Shine had Wild Rebel Rose, The Way That I Am had Independence Day and Eleven has I'm Gonna Love You Through It. All three of these songs have a really powerful message behind them. I'm Gonna Love You Through It is about a woman's fight with cancer and the support she receives from her husband. The video is really strong and features women that have all suffered with cancer, some celebrities, some not. It is a really strong song in general and the melody is kept simple and leaves the focus to be on the lyrics and the message behind them.

Martina has sung a lot of duets with other artists in the past but they are rarely featured on her albums. Eleven is different in that it features a duet with Pat Monahan from the band Train. Marry Me is a lovely song that was originally a single for Train. On their album it wasn't done as a duet however Martina sang with them on the CMT show Crossroads as a duet. It works very well as a duet and the two separate story lines come together nicely. She may not have many duets on her album however Martina is always joined by very strong artists for the backing vocals on her songs. Always Be This Way and Summer Of Love feature Jimi Westbrook and Whatcha Gonna Do features Phillip Sweet (both from Little Big Town) Martina is also joined by Carolyn Dawn Johnson on Broken Umbrella.

I'm very happy that after nineteen years of making music Martina is still going strong and is still producing some very strong albums. Martina will be doing 11 shows with George Strait in January 2012 and then starting her own tour in March or April of 2012. Martina unfortunately had to cancel her UK concert last year with very short notice so I'm really hoping she makes it back here soon! Five stars from me.

--> Mim Grey has finished recording her second album and is preparing for a January 2012 release date. Look out for UK tour dates announced in the very near future!
--> The International Festival Of Country Music returns to Wembley next year for the first time in 21 years. Reba McEntire will headline the festival and she will be joined by fourteen-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs, country band Lonestar, Little Big Town (making their international debut) and many other supporting acts.