One of the biggest selling female country artists of all time has finally ended her hiatus from the music industry with Prizeﬁghter: Hit After Hit.
Trisha Yearwood has been busy living her life with country music icon and husband Garth Brooks, writing several cookbooks and even hosting her own southern-style cooking television program.
Her twelfth studio album drops in the midst of Brooks’ comeback concert tour, of which she is a part. It is part greatest hits and part new album, yet these sixteen songs are those heartbreak ballads she is most well known for and somehow all gel together quite well.
Debut single She’s In Love With the Boy marked Yearwood’s first Billboard Country Number One, thanks to its cheerful swing, poetic piano, quality songwriting and of course, Yearwood’s distinctively vulnerable yet self-assured vocals.
As her career progresses, listeners encounter tracks like the folky, soulful and intricately arranged Wrong Side of Memphis and her duet with the Eagles’ Don Henley Walkaway Joe (whose video features Matthew McConaughey), an understated yet stunning piano ballad that recalls Joni Mitchell’s Blue. There is also the sickly sweet, summery melody of XXX’s and OOO’s (Yearwood’s second Billboard Country Number One).
In Another’s Eyes may be a pre-marriage duet with Brooks, yet the musical chemistry is already palpable on the recording. The two duet partners achingly yearn for each other in their vocals as equals on this emotional track about how blind love is both ‘a blessing and a curse’.
Who can forget the karaoke essential and classic country-pop ballad How Do I Live for the soundtrack to Con Air? LeAnn Rimes’ original may have been successful, but it is juvenile compared to Yearwood’s re-recording that maturely captures the nuances and pathos in Diane Warren’s melody and words.
Georgia Rain (Garth Brooks on backing vocals) is undoubtedly Yearwood’s Desperado. The epic, classy piano and orchestral ballad sensually sweeps listeners away in the sumptuousness of her voice and innuendo (as Yearwood can’t decide whether ‘the heart in my chest or the hood of that Ford’ beat faster). The atmospheric, reflective The Song Remembers When comes close however, as it is the perfect soundtrack for watching clouds go by above barren country plains.
By contrast to the earlier singles, the title track to previous album Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love is a raucous, lighthearted affair complete with banjo, crazy organs and Yearwood’s untarnished belting at the end.
The new songs more than stand up on their own and show Yearwood’s voice in fine form. Opener Prizefighter injects some fighting spirit into the compilation, with competitive yet complementary harmonies and duet partner Kelly Clarkson almost stealing the show at the end. The way Yearwood’s vocals float heavenly above the velvety violins on the plaintive, beautiful I Remember You makes it clear that the song is about someone who has recently departed: Yearwood’s mother. The ironic End of the World (as Yearwood wearily mutters the title like an understatement) continues this theme, with its slow-burning chorus and pattering, raindrop-like cymbals. Nevertheless, tracks that lighten the mood include the mysterious, murderous and slinky Your Husband’s Cheatin’ On Us (which sounds like ‘The Other Woman’ in song) and the ludicrous You Can’t Trust the Weatherman.
Trisha Yearwood has pulled the right punches by mixing ten greatest hits with six quality new songs on this cohesive set. Prizefighter is therefore a definitive statement of what she is about and where she will be going next.