On some level, Trisha Yearwood's Greatest Hits could easily have been a double disc, but it's better to be left wanting than overfed. Yearwood ruled the 1990s; she rose to stardom as the queen of contemporary country almost immediately upon release of her self-titled debut in 1991. The evidence is right here: there are three cuts from that set including the still-played, up-tempo pop tune "She's in Love with the Boy," a song that could have, and perhaps was, written to be enhanced by a music video and is a fine template for the blueprint that contemporary country has followed since. It's followed a pair of ballads, "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart," and "The Woman Before Me," both of which resonated big at the time, and still hold up. "Wrong Side of Memphis," off Hearts in Armor, is the quintessential roots country rocker in the new incarnation of the country idiom. Other memorable tracks here include "Xxx's and Ooo's (An American Girl)," which sounds like it's being sung into a mirror. The title cut from Thinkin' About You is here, as is "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)" written by the dynamite songwriting team of Kim Richey and Larry Gottlieb (a team that no longer exists, unfortunately). It's a heartbreak anthem like few others in the last 15 years. The other cut from that set is the title track, "Everybody Knows." These latter two songs, if country "critics" and fans had looked deeper, might have begged questions or personal speculation as to how a singer with a voice as powerful as this one could delivered not one but two burning rock & roll broken-hearted love songs on a single album without being in that position herself.
And of course, UMG Nash Vegas couldn't resist two cuts from Songbook, an earlier hits collection with "How Do I Live" from the soundtrack to the film Con Air, which is a complete waste of Yearwood's more than considerable talents as a singer. The song is insipid, and Tony Brown's production feels as if he's trying to get a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey performance from his star. Thankfully, "Perfect Love" from the same collection fares far better. Brown compresses the hell out of the steel and acoustic guitars to the point where they almost sound tinny they're so big, but her vocal on this acoustic-based rocker more than rescues the instrumental edge. In keeping with the Songbook tradition, there are two new songs here, as well (though they may have been recorded over a decade ago and already in the can since Yearwood is no longer with MCA). There's a gorgeous ballad by Stephanie Davis called "Just a Cup of Coffee," produced by the man who understood her true strength from the jump and guided her first four records: Garth Fundis. It's a natural sounding roots country song with fiddles, piano, acoustic guitars, a shuffling snare and bass drum beat, and Yearwood's throaty, soul deep instrument bringing the real grain in Davis' lyric to the fore. The closer is a new tune written by Kimberly Fox called "Nothin' to Lose," This is pure, road song swagger with burning, bluesy acoustic guitar, hand percussion, snare and hit hat, a standup bass, and a smoking mandolin solo. This is tough, lean and mean, and Yearwood's got the sass in her low and falsetto ranges to make it utterly believable. Indeed, she proves all over the place on this disc that she could sing anything she wanted to: soul, blues, and yeah, rock & roll too. Hopefully she will, now that she's on her own. After all, she did tape a CMT Crossroads with Babyface! Her own independent single, "Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love" on Big Machine Records (an independent that also lists her husband, Jack Ingram, Taylor Swift, and a slew of other Nash Vegas rebels) was released on the same day as the MCA hits collection (hmmm...there's something that smells fishy about that).