I’ve been a fan of Martina’s since the beginning, so you’ll have to forgive me if you find this review more than a bit one-sided. I’ve thought for a long time that she’s delivering some of the best female vocals in all of country music, and nothing she’s produced so far has even remotely disappointed her fans or the industry. She continues to rack up accolades from those in the industry, and, in short, ELEVEN is as pretty close to a ‘ten’ than you’re going to get from any performer these days, if you get the pun. If anything, ELEVEN is a bit different from anything she’s done before because it’s clear than she’s going to great lengths to showcase to her musical diversity. Thus, the fans continue to win so long as Martina continues to perform.
1. One Night (5 out of 5): “It’s like I waited my whole life for us to be together this one night …” Martina has made a career out of producing radio-friendly country hits that border on pop without giving in entirely to some of pop’s lesser sentimentalities. Her feel-good lyrics lift and elevate, even when they’re waxing up life’s seedier elements. “One Night” is a perfect example of what she does best.
2. Always Be This Way (4 out of 5): A bit of an island / reggae undercurrent drives this little ditty into existence. “Everybody says that we’ll never make it, but they don’t have an idea of what they’re saying.” It’s understated musically – the kind of reserved performance country singers do uniquely well in order to bring out their vocals.
3. I’m Gonna Love You Through It (5 out of 5): “When you’re weak, I’ll be strong; when you let go, I’ll hold on; when you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to cry your eyes …” In particular, Martina has built a career on singing songs about the values of living life well, about making and sticking to the most difficult decisions one may have to make in a lifetime. Each album has featured a stand-out performance about two people coming together in love, and “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” is one such track for ELEVEN; it’s what her fans love her for, and it’s what she loves to deliver for them.
4. Marry Me (5 out of 5): Opens softly and builds slowly to the refrain, a celebration of finding love and building a life together. It’s a rare duet – one with Train’s Pat Monaghan, who also wrote the song – for Martina, but it’s pure musical magic. Her and Pat’s voices blend wonderfully as well as complement one another when performing their respective parts.
5. Broken Umbrella (5 out of 5): Jazz horns? A bit of a Motown sound? What “Broken Umbrella” shows is what most Martina fans have known all along, and that talent is universal and can perform in ANY genre of music. It’s a lovely, pleasant diversion for her and her dedicated fans. Indeed … “let it rain, let it rain, let rain” because none of us mind walking around with a broken umbrella when we have Martina’s angelic vocals pouring in our ears!
6. You Can Get Your Lovin’ Right Here (4 out of 4): A bit of a bluesy guitar riff opens the track, quickly brought to life by Martina’s sexy, breathy vocals. “When you slow down … really slow down … you can get your lovin’ right here.” It’s not quite the virtuoso performance with some other sounds on the album, but it certainly has its own unique stamp.
7. Whatcha Gonna Do (5 out of 5): This has the makings of being a true pop standard. “Whatcha Gonna Do” has hints of big band ballad written all over it, just a touch of blues thrown in, but there’s also an undercurrent of a real torch song performance here. Like an angel, Martina’s vocals wrap all around the music – rising and falling and caressing every curve – and it’s quite possibly the most memorable track here the way she embraces it with her voice. “I can’t keep waiting around this house, expecting you to change …”
8. Teenage Daughters (3.5 out of 5): Uh-oh. Momma’s daughter is growing up. And just like the rebellion in the youth, “Teenage Daughters” has a rebellious backbeat – an almost punkish guitar riff and a refrain that occasionally hints of Bob Dylan. It’s a musical experiment that excels more than it fails, perhaps a bit too clever for its own good, but isn’t that what the teenage years were all about?
9. Summer of Love (3.5 out of 5): “I remember how time stood still and how you made me feel, like you were my forever …” Some songs embrace the predictable a bit too much to be anything more than just a song, unless (of course) it means anything to the listener personally; “Summer of Love” is one such song. If it strikes the right chord with you, then it’ll mean more to you than it does the next person. It takes safe choices musically, so, while there may be nothing unusually special about it, it still benefits from Martina’s winning vocals … and it has a great bridge where she really gets to belt out the refrain with softly building accompaniment that’s terrific.
10. When You Love A Sinner (3.5 out of 5): Country music has a long history of women embracing their ‘bad boys,’ be it abuse or philandering husbands. Would ELEVEN be a true country album if it didn’t have a ballad about love and its uglier consequences? Probably not. “I’m slowly letting go ‘cause in my heart I know that I can’t make him better.” Again, if songs of this nature have any real fault, it’s that they wander thru relatively predictable territory musically and lyrically. Nothing wrong with it … it delivers exactly what its title promises.
11. Long Distance Lullaby (5 out of 5): Simply put, what amazes Martina’s fans most is how much emotion she can squeeze into her angelic voice. Whether she’s belting out a tear-jerker of a ballad or softly delivering softer vocals on a more meditative piece like “Long Distance Lullaby,” there’s just so much heart and soul in her performance … at one moment tired, at one moment quietly elated, and so much more in between. Another stand-out vocal performance.
12. You’re In My House Now (4 out of 5): “You’re in my house now so kick off your shoes …” It’s the kind of song you can crank up loud and sing along to, an anthem for personal living. “Leave the troubles on the front porch, baby … welcome to the party …” An upbeat, feel-good country rocker – without the obligatory hard-drivin’ rock guitar – that Martina does so well.
13. Closing Time (5 out of 5): “Closing Time” is the other end of the country ballad spectrum … a slow, deliberate tweak of the heartstrings set to a leisurely drumbeat, a bluesy guitar, and a weeping organ. It’s the end of the evening, and everyone has to go home whether your dreams have been fulfilled or not, so let’s squeeze one more dance out of a tired dance floor. It’s a big, bold, brash performance, exactly what you expect from one of country’s biggest singers. Country-western performers – especially the ladies like Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker – have been singing songs like this from decades earlier; Martina shows that her voice is also one for the ages with a delivery like this.
14. Ask the Boy (2.5 out of 5): “Let’s forget the rules and just let go …” It’s an obligatory love song, wandering thru territory to safe to be distinguished from anything else on the disc except for its saccharin sentiments. In short, it’s probably the least memorable track here.
15. I Give It To You (4 out of 5): A soft guitar makes the perfect instrument to bring out Martina’s angelic vocals, and “I Give It To You” gives her the choice to really soar. It’s a simple melody about coming to Jesus and laying down burdens, lifted from the routine by a singular performance that’s so uniquely hers. It packs just the right amount of emotion without pressing too much, and it’s probably the best way to sign off ELEVEN … not with the sound and the fury but with a soft accompaniment that helps bring Martina’s voice to life.
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What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more
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