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Album Review

Sunny outlook on McBride's 'Shine'

March 23, 2009
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Country
Martina McBride Shine
Sony Music
ESSENTIAL "I'm Trying"

For a taste of the power of positivity, look no further than Martina McBride's splendid new album, "Shine."

It doesn't matter if the protagonists of the country singer's songs are making up, breaking up, shacking up, or cracking up, the singer and her songwriters have managed to inject hope into even the darkest scenarios.

It's easy to find the silver lining in odes to joy like the uptempo "Sunnyside Up" or the cheerleading ballad "I Just Call You Mine." But McBride even manages to do it on "Lies," an examination of denial that serves as the album's show-stopping closer.

The peak - both musically and thematically - comes on "I'm Trying," a simply constructed breakdown of complex emotions about a couple wracked by substance abuse who come undone over a hushed acoustic guitar. Songwriters Darrell Scott and Tia Sillers advance an optimism for both parties that leavens the tears evoked by McBride's tender vocal. Great stuff.

Familiar McBride sounds abound, from playful country gospel ("You're Not Leaving Me") to another heartfelt look at domestic violence ("Wild Rebel Rose"), but Dann Huff - the longtime Faith Hill producer - also injects fresh life into the album by taking inspiration from the past.

He dips into his own '80s hair-metal roots, occasionally at McBride's peril, as with the hard-edged riffs on the otherwise likable current single, "Ride." And the Beatles sonic handbook was clearly consulted for some flourishes, including the lyrical George Harrison-style guitar on the sly "Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong" and the pulsating mellotron-style keys of the bittersweet "Walk Away."

Hope may be in short supply of late, but on "Shine," it springs eternal. (Out tomorrow)

SARAH RODMAN

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