Breathtaking. Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love is absolutely, unequivocally, breathtaking. Yearwood combines perfectly emotive, flawlessly executed vocals, with excellent–sometimes fantastic–songs, to produce an album of exceptional depth. It is an album that stands as a testament to everything that’s good about contemporary, mainstream country music. Western, blues, Americana, traditional country; all of these influences blend with Yearwood’s signature Nashville flair on an album that covers more ground musically than any of her previous work. In a word? Breathtaking.
Making a widely distinct body of material sound aesthetically cohesive is a feat not easily accomplished by most artists, as casting a wide net can result in an album that lacks focus and/or assaults listners’ senses with jarring musical transitions. But Yearwood isn’t most artists. She’s one of the finest interpretive vocalists of her generation. So it’s no surprise that she succeeds where others fail, and that the individual pieces of this album fit together snugly, pieces of puzzle that, when connected, form the portrait of a mature, complicated, and passionate real live woman.
The difference between a good album and a great album always–always–comes down to songs and song selection. And while Yearwood has long since proven herself a superb vocalist, her albums have, on occasion, tapped into a fair bit of par-for-the-course material. That is not a problem here.
“Dreaming Fields,” co-written by Matraca Berg, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Strike that. It is a masterpiece–an exhibition in lyrical poetry set to a hauntingly familiar melody and sung with chilling emotional resonance. Berg is one of Nashville’s greatest treasures, and “Dreaming Fields” is, all at once, a story about the magic of childhood, the bond between young and old, and the plight of the American farmer.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime song, and this album would be worth the ticket price if “Dreaming Fields” were the only excellent song on the disc. It’s not.
“Cowboys are my weakness/Gimme some down home rugged sweetness,” Yearwood pleads on the unabashedly western “Cowboys Are My Weakness,” a perfectly crafted mid-tempo that puts the monotonous, overproduced rambling of her contemporaries to shame.
The best track on this album, however, might be “This Is Me You’re Talking To,” a lyrically simple, heartwrenching, and brutally honest song that Yearwood delivers with one of the premier vocal performances of her career.
Simply put, Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love is one of the finest albums to come out of Nashville in years.
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