Martina McBride

Wild Angels

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Coming two years after her smash The Way That I Am and her mind-bogglingly successful single, "Independence Day," Martina McBride had nothing to prove -- except to the folks in accounting at her record company. Wild Angels continues her exploration of melding classic country influences and modern pop -- long before Shania Twain dreamed it -- in the same way (albeit in a radically different time and context) that Patsy Cline did 30 years earlier. Using the same production team of Ed Seay, Paul Worley, and herself -- with a literal boatload of engineers -- McBride and company assembled a fine collection of songs and performers, including the Band's Levon Helm and Ashley Cleveland on backing vocals, to deliver a powerful set that is her most consistent yet despite not having a single as memorable as "Independence Day" (but you only get those once or twice in a lifetime anyway, right?). Here there are many standout tracks, not the least among them being a rocking & rolling country version of Delbert McClinton's classic "Two More Bottles of Wine" that blows away Emmylou Harris' version and rivals McClinton's. In addition, there are a couple of Matraca Berg cuts, including the modern country title track and the soulful weeper "Cry on the Shoulder of the Road." The Bunch/Stinson-penned "You've Been Driving All the Time" has that irresistible lead-in of acoustic guitars that gives way to compressed ringing electrics that underscore her voice so well and make the track a winner. But there aren't any weak moments here, and McBride proves for the third time that she not only is for real, but that she has the ability a lot of her peers don't to make consistently engaging, moving, and memorable music from album to album. That's an achievement.

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