September 19, 2005 12:00 PM

COUNTRY

Jasper County

Yearwood has so often seemed detached and formulaic that it’s especially satisfying to hear how engaged she sounds on this, her first album in four years and her first since getting engaged to Garth Brooks, who sings backup on the pleasantly nostalgic “Georgia Rain.” But the real highlight is “Sweet Love,” which touches on a heretofore unmined bluesy corner of Yearwood’s style. She’ll never make anyone forget Gretchen Wilson, let alone Bonnie Raitt, but this track reveals an earthiness that belies the sterility of some of her past work. Meanwhile, “Who Invented the Wheel?”—about a woman cursing those who allowed her man to drive off—reflects a playfulness not heard previously from Yearwood. One yearns, though, for a full-fledged duet with Brooks. Maybe longtime producer Garth Fundis will talk them into it next time.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Sweet Love”

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