The problem with Yearwood's disappointing last album wasn't the slow pace of its music but the sluggishness of its spirit. There are plenty of ballads here too, but they're generally absorbing because she's recaptured the inner fire and sense of adventure that made her look like a true crossover queen when she released "Hearts in Armor" in 1992.
Most of these songs find her on the move--literally or metaphorically. Bus, train and car carry her on emotional journeys to Minnesota and Mexico and along the interstates. Yearwood negotiates the passages of the modern woman on the lively "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" and "I Wanna Go Too Far"--a song that pushes the point too hard, providing the album's only strained note.
"Thinkin' About You" has only a glancing relationship with real country music, but Yearwood arrives at her hybrids--many of them in the sophisticated, adult-folk genre championed by Nanci Griffith--with no sense of calculation or compromise. The closing blues-tinged torch song is an assured declaration that any genre is fair game for this resurgent singer.
All she needs to do to legitimize her claim to the Ronstadt legacy is loosen the shackles imposed by a production approach that's still too meticulous and formal.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).