Martina McBride is a well-established country music artist – she has sold over 18 million album and won multiple awards, and she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry early in her career. However, her latest album, Everlasting, is not an album of country songs – well, there is a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ and Elvis can sometimes be brought under the country umbrella by way of bluegrass, but that’s the only exception.
On Everlasting McBride covers ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’, made famous by Aretha Franklin; Simply Red’s ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’; the Supremes’ ‘Come See About Me’; and ‘To Know Him is To Love Him’ and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ – songs already released by several other artists, which have endured, as the album’s title suggests, because they are everlasting. There are twelve songs in all; she is joined in one song by Gavin DeGraw and in another by Kelly Clarkson.
The challenge for any artist who creates an album out of songs made famous by other artists – whether that artist is established as McBride or not – is to not only avoid replicating the earlier versions but create something that is distinctively her own. It takes a degree of confidence as well: to believe that your version is different and strong enough to stand out – to be as everlasting – as the existing versions. Otherwise, the risk for someone in McBride’s position could be too great – she is clearly good at country music, so why deviate from that?
These songs do not become country songs but it’s arguable that they become McBride songs – and in so doing they’ll keep her existing fans happy and, no doubt, win over new fans who may previously have thought she was only a ‘country singer’. Of course, as those of us who love country music know, there’s no such thing. Country music is full of singers, songwriters and musicians who choose country because it’s the genre that offers them the most, not because it’s all they can do. Martina McBride is just such an artist, as this album shows.
Everlasting by Martina McBride is out now through Vinyl Records/Kobalt.