Trisha Yearwood
Trisha Yearwood The woman who owns the most majestic voice in Music City is marking a new milestone with an album that will be regarded as a masterwork of her career.

Trisha Yearwood’s Jasper County is a collection that comes from a period of re-evaluation, introspection, reinvigoration and self-reflection. The multi-Platinum, multi Grammy-winning star has never before given as much consideration and concern to a recording project.

“I’ve never taken this long to make a record,” comments Yearwood. “I’ve never recorded as many songs. I’d never completely started over on an album like I did on this one. Overall, it was a two-year process to make this record.”

The loving care shows in every note of Jasper County. Reunited with her original producer, Garth Fundis, Trisha Yearwood digs deeper into her expressive powers than ever before. The 11 resulting soundscapes are all intense listening experiences.

The bluesy, smoldering drama of “Who Invented The Wheel” contrasts with the chugging, zesty pep of “Baby Don’t You Let Go.” “River of You” is lovelorn and hypnotic, while “Pistol” is a hillbilly rocker with sass. “Sweet Love” is steamy, sexy and sweaty, yet “Standing Out in a Crowd” is airy, uplifting and inspiring. The throbbing, pulse-quickening “Try Me” features electrifying harmony by Ronnie Dunn. The gorgeous, dark and magnificent ballad “Trying to Love You” includes vocals by its co-composer, Beth Nielsen Chapman.

Yearwood tears into “Gimme the Good Stuff” with the ferocious fire of a rocker, then turns rollicking, innocent and fun-loving in “It’s Alright.” The powerful emotional undertow of “Georgia Rain” has already made it the break-out single from Jasper County. Its understated male vocal harmony is by Garth Brooks.

These are performances of startling freshness and passion. So it comes as something of a shock to realize that this is an artist who has issued 10 previous records and scored 20 top-10 hits. Trisha Yearwood’s larger-than-life voice has helped to define contemporary country music.

But after 12 years of non-stop touring and career building, Yearwood decided to take a break following the Gold-selling Inside Out CD of 2001 and its top-10 single “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.”

“I planned to take a year off. I just thought it was a good time to take a break for a lot of reasons. A year goes by really quickly, even if you’re not doing anything. Then I started getting ready to make a record and listening to songs. I think I was just so anxious to get back into the studio that Garth Fundis and I just went in and cut a bunch of stuff. Then, for the first time, I stopped and reevaluated: ‘These songs are good, but are they the right ones?’ At that point, we had to say, ‘You know what? It’s OK to start over.’”

“Once we did that, we were able to get to the next layer of songs, to dig a little deeper. When we got into the second set of sessions, it felt instantly right. That’s when I knew. You could just feel that it was special.”

“It’s been such a long road to get here, and there’ve been so many road blocks along the way. You feel really protective of your music. You don’t want to just throw it out there. You really want everybody on board and focused. So now the timing seems right. I think there were probably reasons for it to have taken the time it did.”

In the interim, the radio landscape has changed profoundly. So has the live-performance business. She says she’s eager to embrace the country industry’s evolution.

“How can they miss you if you don’t go away?” Yearwood says with a chuckle. “It wasn’t intentional to be gone this long, and a lot has changed in four years. But the response I’ve had to the new music has been just so nice. Radio people were saying, ‘We’re just really happy to hear your voice again.’ The new people at MCA who don’t know me very well are on board. There’s a momentum. The more things roll along, the more optimistic I am.”

Trisha Yearwood has been hailed as “one of the finest interpretive singers ever” by Entertainment Weekly. She has been saluted as “among the best vocalists currently working in any genre” by The Tennessean. CD Review calls her simply, “Nashville’s uber-vocalist.”

She has a full-bodied, muscular voice with bulls-eye tonal control, wide-open volume and dynamic range. But what Trisha Yearwood possesses goes far beyond pitch and technique. Hers is an instrument of uncommon emotional resonance, a voice that makes lyrics glow with believability, that gives them a beating heart. It is a voice of rapture and wonder.

“The things that I bring to the table are, hopefully, songs that I believe have integrity,” she comments modestly. The woman who has immortalized “The Song Remembers When,” “Wrong Side of Memphis,” “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” and “How Do I Live,” among others, says she chose “Georgia Rain” because, “It is the classic kind of story song that I’ve always liked to do.”

Listeners responded to her lustrous voice from the moment they first heard it 14 years ago. The native of Monticello, Georgia served her apprenticeship in Nashville as a student at Belmont University, a receptionist at MTM Records and as a “demo” singer for dozens of aspiring songwriters. Following her signing by MCA, Trisha burst on the radio airwaves with the frisky rocker “She’s In Love With the Boy” in the spring of 1991. The single roared to No. 1, beginning a string of what would become nine No. 1 hits, such as “That’s What I Like About You,” “The Woman Before Me,” “XXX’s and OOO’s,” “Thinkin’ About You” and “A Perfect Love.”

Trisha’s 10 MCA albums to date include four Gold Record winners (The Sweetest Gift, Everybody Knows, Real Live Woman, Inside Out), four Platinum awardees (Hearts In Armor, The Song Remembers When, Thinkin’ About You, Where Your Road Leads), a Double Platinum seller (Trisha Yearwood) and a Quadruple Platinum blockbuster (Songbook (A Collection Of Hits)). She won back-to-back CMA awards as country’s Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and 1998. She has been honored with three Grammy Awards and dozens of other trophies. She has sung at the Academy Awards, the closing ceremonies of the ’96 Olympics, The White House and the Library of Congress.

In 1999 Trisha Yearwood was inducted into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. The following year, she starred in the cable television special A&E Live by Request, narrated and sang on the soundtrack of the animated children’s film The Tangerine Bear and became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In 2001 she was chosen to sing in Washington D.C. by the National Endowment for the Arts at its “Songs of the Century” celebration, was honored by her hometown with the naming of “Trisha Yearwood Parkway” and was called to reprise her recurring role on the CBS-TV series JAG.

Yearwood has contributed to strong-selling soundtracks of such films as Hope Floats, Stuart Little, Thing Called Love and Honeymoon in Vegas, as well as to a number of charity CDs. Known as a willing and genial collaborator, she has provided harmony vocals to dozens of other artists’ recordings, including sessions for Reba McEntire, Rodney Crowell, Brooks & Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Vince Gill, Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless. And a couple duets have led to Grammy awards - her pairing with Aaron Neville for “I Fall To Pieces” and with Garth Brooks for “In Another’s Eyes.” Outside of the country genre and the U.S., Yearwood has performed with Pavarotti for his War Children of Liberia benefit concert in Italy. She has also sung with Don Henley.

Now she is ready to roll up her sleeves and work on her own music again. Following the release of Jasper County, the singer will reemerge as a touring artist later this year.

“It’s just like coming home,” says Trisha Yearwood. “Everything is in the best perspective of my life, both professionally and personally. I feel wiser. I am just very, very happy. I consciously took a break, but I am not finished. I miss performing, and I do love the applause.”

“Singing gives me such joy. And it seems to give other people joy. It’s what I believe I am supposed to do.”