Reckless isn’t exactly an accurate title for Martina McBride’s first album for Nash Icon, the classy home for old Nashville pros constructed by Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta. As her first full-fledged country album since Eleven, Reckless proceeds carefully, conscious of the constraints of commercial country radio and her role as a veteran. All through the album there are slight, subtle hints of the modern world – a passing lyrical reference tempered by crisp digital production or sequenced rhythms – but it’s sensibilities belong to the mainstream country of the ’90s, a place where country cohabitated with arena rock and adult contemporary.
The latter carries a prominent role on Reckless, because this album – co-produced by Dann Huff and Nathan Chapman – is quite consciously an adult effort, a record that embraces maturity in its melody and sensibilities. Sometimes, this does mean that the album winds up getting a little mellow, drifting down supple back ways where the only intent appears to a pleasant placidity, but this softness is salvaged by how the music breathes: for as smooth as the surface is, there is a palpable human heart beating underneath all of the gloss.
Reckless winds up feeling like a record where the individual songs don’t matter as much, they’d stand out on the radio but feel interconnected here, as the mood itself. It’s an album that showcases a Martina McBride who is embracing her middle age, who finds sustenance in her musical roots but resists succumbing to easy nostalgia. It’s warm, classy, and relaxed, music designed to comfort and sustain.