Mindy McCready (1975-2013) is one of the most genuinely tragic performers in country music history... After a dazzling commercial debut at age eighteen, she fell into a long slump, fueled in part by an abusive relationship, some highly public suicide attempts and a behind-the-scenes substance abuse problem. Her troubles became even more public when McCready agreed appear on a series of "reality" TV shows focussed on fallen celebrities. Despite her problems, McCready staged a brief comeback, recording one final album that dealt with some of her own emotional issues but sadly, in 2013 she killed herself, about one month after the shooting death of her partner. I have to admit, for the most part I'm not a fan of her music, but I'm also not into news about celebrity misery, and felt genuinely sorry for her when gossip about her troubles became mainstream news, and quite sad to hear about her death. Clearly she was a very capable, driven person, and who knows how things might have gone if she hadn't stumbled so badly at such a young age. Here's a quick look at her work; I've left my album reviews as they originally appeared as each album came out, rather than edit them in hindsight.
Mindy McCready "Super Hits" (BNA, 2000)
Mindy McCready "Platinum And Gold Collection" (RCA Nashville, 2003)
Mindy McCready "All American Country" (BMG Special Products, 2004)
Mindy McCready "Ten Thousand Angels" (BNA, 1996)
Slick, rock-tinged Tanya Tucker-ish country-pop, with a serious tilt towards treble-heavy production. Mostly too calculated and well-crafted, yet she does hit the nail on the head sometimes; the semi-feminist novelty song, "Guys Do It All The Time," succeeds in spite of its over-obvious premise -- it's still a funny song, and McCready's delivery is dead-on perfect. Other spunky gal-power songs follow, such as "A Girl's Gotta Do What A Girl's Gotta Do" and "It Ain't A Party ('Til The Girls Arrive)," but like many of the tracks on here, they lose traction midway through. Overall, this album seems a bit forced and cluttered. If you're looking for some guitar-heavy neotrad Top 40, this disc's worth checking out, but even so, it wasn't quite as successful as we might have hoped. One highlight is the weepy ballad, "Have A Nice Day," which has a deep Billy Sherrill-ish swell to it; it goes on too long and gets a bit shrill, but the song still has a pleasant depth to it that makes it worth checking out.
Mindy McCready "If I Don't Stay The Night" (BNA, 1997)
Yeesh. The poppy opening track is too goofy and smugly self-satisfied; it's also pretty vapid and airy, as is song #2, "This Is Me." McCready regains a little ground by slowing down for a ballad, "If I Don't Spend The Night," but even this title track lacks substance, and the bland pop that follows sinks the album once again. Meanwhile, McCready makes a show of her profundity and intonement; methinks she hath acquired a swelled head along with all those early hits, and perchance hath fallen in love with big pop production values as well-eth. The result is a dismal, leaden album, which doubtless has many adherents... But I ain't one of 'em. I'll pass!
Mindy McCready "I'm Not So Tough" (BNA, 1999)
(Produced by Billy Joe Walker, Jr.)
Hmmm. I can see that she's trying to regroup to more twangy ground, and as a result this sounds much like a Lone Justice album... I guess it's okay, but it lacks depth or conviction, and McCready's tinny voice still kinda bugs me. The ballads are terrible; the uptempo, galloping country tunes are only so-so. It's all just too prefab to be any fun. Plus, is it just me being all crabby, or did she start sounding like Madonna all of a sudden? An eminently disposable album.
Mindy McCready "Mindy McCready" (Capitol, 2002)
(Produced by Billy Joe Walker, Jr.)
She jumped ship to another label, but took most of her posse with her... Billy Joe Walker, Jr., who produced her last album is on board here as well, and while the overall approach hasn't changed all that much, this does seem like a better focused album, with tighter pop production. Still not my cup of tea, but not quite as dispiriting or as desperate as I'm Not So Tough seemed to be. Sounding kinda Sheryl Crowe all of a sudden, with bluesy licks and a little snarl, which, all things considered might not have been such a bad idea. It's still poppy, but more worth checking out.
Mindy McCready "I'm Still Here" (Iconic Records, 2010)
(Produced by Trey Bruce, Christopher Jak & Jimmy Nichols)
I have to confess, of the 2010 crop of Top Forty-oriented country albums, this indie release was the one that I was most curious to hear... Not because I've been a huge, lifelong Mindy McCready fan or anything, but just because the poor gal has had such a tough time living her life in recent years, I was... well... a little worried about her. McCready made a run for the brass ring around the turn of the century, scoring a #1 hit in 1996 and had a few modest follow-ups at respectable positions after that... But she fell off the radar -- fast -- and the next thing we knew there was a flurry of sad little news stories about her winding up in court, in the hospital, in jail, in rehab and generally in trouble. It was the kind of depressingly petty, ugly, stupid stuff that made you anxious about this person who once had her sights on becoming the next Faith Hill, and then her she was being beaten by her boyfriend, getting thrown in the drunk tank and trying to kill herself in very public ways... A lot of people in show biz try to play the "survivor" card, but I think it's safe to say that McCready has almost all of them beat by a mile, and the fact that she's gathered herself up and recorded such a solid new album says a lot about the gal's tenacity and inner strength. The music is familiar, basically the same pop-and-soul-tinged Nashville stuff she recorded from 1996-2002, when this style was most in vogue -- it's her home turf, and she is comfortable and confident in the role. Some of the lyrics allude to her struggle to recover her balance, although I was surprised that so few of the songs were her own compositions... And the ones that are, like " I Want A Man" and "The Way You Make Me Melt," are some of the most frankly carnal and yearningly erotic songs I've heard in this genre... A little bit TMI, for me, but I'm sure there's an audience for them as well. Honestly, I won't be cranking these tunes up on any cross-country drives, but I am, really, sincerely glad to see that McCready is back on her feet.
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