Shania Twain, "Now," (Mercury Nashville)
When Shania Twain declares on her new album, "I'm independent to a fault, I know this well," she's singing about love, but she could be talking about her career as well.
Twain broke a lot of the norms in country music in the mid-90s, flaunted her sexuality and her midriff (gasp) and incorporated rock riffs into her danceable country pop melodies. She's back again after a 15-year break still pushing the boundaries of the genre with her mix of pop, country, dance and rock music.
Twain's ex-husband, former producer and cowriter Robert "Mutt" Lange often got the majority of the credit for her previous multiplatinum albums. But on "Now," her first record since 2002, Twain wrote all the songs by herself, a rarity in country and pop music, and her songwriting is light-hearted, hooky and inviting.
This new songs still carry the feminine strength and optimism she's always espoused, with a bit more vulnerability. She goes from the lamentation of "Poor Me," about getting dumped for another, to "Life's About to Get Good," in which she affirms: "I'm ready to be loved and love the way I should."
The biggest change, however, is her voice, which was crippled by Lyme's disease. After a long rehabilitation, Twain's voice is deeper with a little bit more gravel tones and that's to be expected after a vocal injury.
But the vocal recordings in some songs, namely the single, "Life's About to Get Good," have been so over processed and tweaked in the studio that it's distracting. Her voice sounds much better on songs that are more simply produced, such as "Because of You."
Twain has persevered through a lot of personal hardships and this album's survival message shows she's not going to let anything stop her.