Martina McBride

Waking Up Laughing

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Martina McBride scored big with Timeless, her collection of classic country tunes in 2005. It was yet another feather in the singer's cap. McBride's reign near the top of country music's pantheon has been near constant. She's picky about the songs she chooses to sing, she works with sympathetic producers, and her voice is, well, timeless. She's got the Southern twang, but its timbre carries within it a vast scope of American music. Check "Anyway," the first single and video from 2007's Waking Up Laughing, and one of two tunes on the set McBride had a hand in writing (and she produced the set herself -- she's earned the right). It's subject is to pray regardless, take the action and leave the result in the hands of Divine Providence: "God is great, but sometimes life ain't good/When I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should/But I do it anyway/I do it anyway." It's anthem to the beauty of failure, the courage in tenacity, and a testament to the willingness to do the right thing no matter how it turns out. It's got a massive string section, a slow, pronounced piano. The guitars crash against the strings in the refrain and the entire thing nearly lifts off the ground. The only thing holding it steady is McBride's big contralto. This kind of drama is her stock-in-trade. Celine Dion has nothing on her. Song itself is where McBride's quest as an artist resides. In the opener, "If I Had Your Name," rocking guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and big bad drums underscore McBride's scathing indictment of another's character flaws: "If I had your name/I'd be changin' it by now." A popping bassline and twin lead guitars fill the middle with menace and rage. "Everybody Does" feels like a flip side for "Anyway," with the subject of failure in love. "Loveland" and "House of a Thousand Dreams" have less of that large, theater-sounding dynamic. They are more traditionally "country" songs, a term that in the 21st century can mean almost anything -- and yes, that's good: it simply stands for American music these days. Waking Up Laughing is another brick in Martina McBride's astonishingly consistent catalog. Her continual affirmation for Christian faith may alienate some but will no doubt register with many country fans. Any way you look at it, Waking Up Laughing is a winner.

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