Timeless refers to the 18 songs Martina McBride covers on her seventh studio albums, classic country tunes every one. Most of the songs date from the '60s and '70s -- the oldest songs here are the opening pair of Hank Williams' "You Win Again" and Ray Price's "I'll Be There," both dating from the '50s, along with Hank Snow's "I Don't Hurt Anymore" and another Price perennial, "Heartaches by the Number" -- and the great majority of these songs are quite familiar. "I Can't Stop Loving You," "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden," "Today I Started Loving You Again," "Satin Sheets," "I Still Miss Someone," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Make the World Go Away," and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" have all been covered regularly and remain radio staples to this day, and even such comparatively obscure choices as Harlan Howard's terrific "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" (made into a hit by Charlie Walker) are well-known to hardcore country fans. Instead of being a detriment, the familiarity is a blessing, since these well-known songs illustrate McBride's range, power, and subtlety as a vocalist, as well as her skill as an interpreter. Timeless strikes a tricky and effective balance of being traditional -- the thoroughly annotated, well-detailed liner notes reveal that this extended down to the recording, where mostly vintage equipment, with no digital plug-ins, were used -- and contemporary. The songs and sounds are familiar, and even when McBride does an unexpected arrangement -- the mellow, introspective acoustic-based "I Still Miss Someone" -- they're not wildly unexpected, yet this all feels fresh, due to the excellence of the band, McBride's sterling taste in material, and, best of all, her extraordinary voice. She has always been one of the greatest vocalists in contemporary country, but Timeless is the first time that she's recorded a full-fledged singer's album, one where she not only has the material to showcase her range, but also a sympathetic band, arrangements, and production to highlight her remarkable voice. The result isn't just one of the best country albums of 2005 but her best album since The Way That I Am.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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