With a yawn and a wink, the queen returns
Trisha Yearwood’s latest album is an exercise in practiced restraint. Never much of a rule-breaker, Yearwood has managed to sell gazillions of records and ascend to the heights of the country music industry by relying on her down-home charisma, her powerful alto and not much else. This formula infuses nearly every aspect of Heaven, her indie-label debut and reunion with producer Garth Fundis. Despite claims about “new energy” and “buzz” in publicity materials, the album relies heavily on many familiar Yearwood themes: the “aw-shucks, what the hell” take on living life (title track), protracted breakups (“This Is Me You’re Talking To”) and misunderstood love (“Nothin’ ’Bout Memphis”). This is not necessarily a bad thing; Yearwood is one of the most gifted female country balladeers to emerge in the last 30 years, and her voice—robust and more self-assured than ever—somehow manages to cut through the morass of sleep-inducing Nashville arrangements and lyrical clichés. Heaven is a respectable effort by Yearwood’s previous standards, but its conservative nature makes one wonder what the singer might be capable of if ever encouraged to apply her impressive instrument to material truly worthy of it.