At first blush it’s tough to swallow lines like “I work nine to five and I can’t relate / To millionaires who somehow fate / Has smiled upon and fortune made their / Common lives a better place to be,” coming from a CMA and Grammy award winning, multi-platinum selling, banker’s daughter of a Nashville star. But then being a popular music fan has often involved a willing suspension of disbelief (I mean, does anyone really believe that Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno, or that Garth Brooks has friends in low places?). Place the lines in the context of the luscious country soul of “Real Live Woman,” the title track and hit single from Trisha Yearwood’s latest album, and it’s worth checking your credulity at the door.
Real Live Woman, Yearwood’s sixth release on MCA Nashville since her 1991 debut (discounting the album of holiday favorites and a greatest hits package), is a showcase for the singer’s pop, country and soul sensibilities, sometimes by turns but often all at once—check out “Wild For You Baby,” which combines R&B guitar licks, keening steel and a full string section, or “When A Love Song Sings The Blues,” a grand bluesy ballad that bids us remember original honky-tonker Ted Daffan. It’s hardly a surprise and probably no coincidence that Yearwood owns to an early and enduring love of Elvis and Patsy, neither of whom was shy about mixing their pop, country and soul influences.
Yearwood and her long-time producer Garth Fundis know a good song when they hear one. Real Live Woman is full of them—a Springsteen obscurity, the tender “Sad Eyes,” a sanctified love song complete with gospel chorus, “One Love,” the melancholy “Some Days,” a dobro-drenched confessional that sounds, after one spin, like something you’ve been hearing your whole life—and save for the uncharacteristic over-the-top turn on Linda Ronstadt’s “Try Me Again,” they know just what to do with one too. Yearwood possesses the pipes to blow the doors off any song, but apparently has faith enough in her material and confidence enough in her abilities to sing to the song rather than to the cheap seats (these are no small talents), and the players, fine Nashville sessionmen all, oblige the aesthetic.
It all comes together on the Bobbie Cryner-penned, Memphis-meets-Nashville title track: killer song, the singer’s pop/country/soul sensibilities, sympathetic arrangement, smart, dynamic performance. The lovestruck teenager of Yearwood’s first hit, “She’s In Love With The Boy,” has become, a decade down the road, a confident, contented woman, one who, on “Real Live Woman,” offers “no apologies/for the things that I believe and say.” And when Yearwood drops down to purr the next, last line, “and I like it that way,” it’s easy to believe every single word.