IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Martina McBride sounds ‘Timeless’

Singer doesn’t want to sound like herself on new classics collection
/ Source: The Associated Press

Don’t tell Martina McBride she sounds as good as ever on her new album, “Timeless.”

The singer best known for pop-country hits like “My Baby Loves Me” and “Concrete Angel” doesn’t want to sound like her old self on this one, a collection of 18 country classics that comes out Tuesday.

If she had her way, you’d forget it was her and think you were listening to Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, Eddy Arnold or any of the other Hall of Fame artists she covers.

“I really wasn’t interested in making these songs my own,” she said during a recent interview. “I wanted to do them to pay tribute to the original artists and writers and musicians.”

When possible, McBride, who also produced the album, went back to the original recordings — a feat considering a tune like Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” has been recorded by more than 700 people, most famously Ray Charles. She also hand-picked the musicians and used vintage 1930s microphones and other gear.

The result is a record where you almost expect to hear the pops and skips from the days of vinyl. When the electric guitars twang on Buck Owens’ “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” they have the same bite as Owens’ 1960s records. And when McBride sings Lynn Anderson’s “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” the strings swirl and flutter like on Anderson’s 1970 hit.

She’ll perform several of the songs during a special hour-long portion of the Grand Ole Opry show Oct. 22.

A ‘different path’ for McBrideThe traditional sound is a change for McBride, who built a successful career as a stylish, contemporary hitmaker with a powerhouse voice — in the vein of Faith Hill or Shania Twain but without the huge crossover audience.

Many of her hits have a pop feel with substantive lyrics and strong female perspective. “My Baby Loves Me” expressed the joy of being accepted for one’s self, “Concrete Angel” dealt with child abuse, “Independence Day” with a woman who frees herself from an abusive husband and “Broken Wing” with suicide.

Celebrity Sightings

Slideshow  26 photos

Celebrity Sightings

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

But McBride has always had an affinity for country’s standards, first performing them in her family’s country band, The Schiffters, when she was a kid in Kansas, and later in her own shows.

“When I moved to town I said I wanted to be the next Alan Jackson, the next female Alan Jackson,” she said. “My very first album (“The Time Has Come”) was very traditional. So this is a big part of who I am. I just found songs that led me down a different path.”

The album’s first single, McBride’s remake of “Rose Garden,” is at No. 26 and rising on Billboard’s country singles chart.

“The only problem I have is that ‘Rose Garden’ has been overdone. But I think it’s great that she’s done some of the standards,” said Julie Stevens, program director for KRTY-FM in San Jose, Calif. “I think it’s her stepping out there and saying country music is what I do.”

Inspired by Buck OwensEven without the fancy hair, makeup and clothes of her stage persona, the 39-year-old McBride is model pretty with blue eyes and sharp features. She arrived at the recording studio she owns with her husband, sound engineer John McBride, and was toting the youngest of her three daughters, 4-month-old Ava.

She apologized for being a bit late and kept Ava with her as she answered questions, pausing occasionally to soothe the baby.

She said the impetus for the album was Owens’ “Together Again,” a song she recorded last year for a Hallmark stores project.

“As I was recording that one I had so much fun with the musicians and that classic sound. I thought, ‘I would love to do a whole album of this kind of music.’ I went to Joe Galante at the record label (RCA Records) and said ‘I have kind of a crazy idea, but I really want to do a whole album of classic country songs.’ And without really hesitating he said, ‘Then I think that’s what you should do.”’

It’s a bold move. While other singers have strayed from their core sound, it’s usually been after their commercial peak, not during it.

McBride doesn’t seem concerned, though. After more than a decade of hits and awards, perhaps she feels she can afford the risk.

“We all have projects that we want to do someday, and I thought ’Why wait until someday?’ If it’s commercially successful, great. If it isn’t, well ... ,” she said with a shrug.