The spectacular return of Shania Twain has been crowned with chart entries for the Now album at No. 1 in the US, UK, Australia and beyond. It’s almost as if the Canadian pop-country queen was never away, but her perfect comeback has of course been achieved with the help of a generation of new fans as well as her massive existing fan base.
For those latest admirers, or those whose knowledge of the singer-songwriter’s catalogue is perhaps limited to her anthemic hit singles, we’ve taken a good look through her recording archive to come up with a non-chronological selection of the ten best Shania Twain tracks that you may not know. There are songs from all of her previous albums and, to top it off, a duet with a fellow giant of country music and a taste of Shania live in her own concert.
We do begin at the beginning, though, with the one song Shania co-wrote on her self-titled, and lesser-heard, 1993 debut album. ‘God Ain’t Gonna Getcha for That’, composed with the late, Grammy-nominated country songsmith Kent Robbins, typifies that record’s stripped-down vocal style and countrified approach, down to its pedal steel guitar.
‘Whatever You Do! Don’t!’ was part of the world-conquering Come On Over album of 1997, written like the rest of the disc by Twain and her then-husband and producer ‘Mutt’ Lange. With its synth violins and singalong style, it could have been a single, but the competition from ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’, ‘You’re Still The One’ and all the others was just too intense.
1995’s ‘Is There Life After Love’ is an underrated example of a Twain ballad with a country twist, helped again by pedal steel, violin and some nice barroom piano. The Come On Over album it came from listed not one but two distinguished pedal steel players, Paul Franklin and John Hughey.
Then we jump to 1999, and a gem of a vocal performance by Shania on the multi-guest concept album Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida. She sings ‘Amneris’ Letter,’ an atractive ballad with music by Elton and lyrics by Rice, on an album which also starred Sting, Janet Jackson, the Spice Girls, James Taylor and many others.
The 2002 album Up! was available in no fewer than three colour-coded versions, with the red edition by far the best known; the green version featured the “international” mixes, while the blue release was inspired by the Bollywood style of Indian film music. From the latter, Shania looks east on the “blue” version of ‘Juanita.’
‘Still Under The Weather’ takes us back to the 1993 debut for a country tune co-written by two Nashville hitmakers of the era, Skip Ewing and Michael White, with L.E. White. “I’m still under the weather,” sings Shania wistfully of her lost love, “but I’m over the storm.”
The Woman In Me, which produced an incredible eight singles, also offered a notable first in ‘Leaving Is The Only Way Out,’ which represented Twain’s album debut as a solo songwriter. As we know, that’s a style she has returned to trimphantly with Now.
The green edition of Up! re-cast ‘I’m Not In The Mood To Say No,’ which on the red mix was essentially a pop-rock song, in new country colours. It emphasises how much a mix can change a track, and how Shania could still delight her country audience.
In 2003, Willie Nelson released a live album called Live and Kickin’ which featured a stellar guest list including Ray Charles, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Steven Tyler and Paul Simon. Shania joined him on stage at the Beacon Theatre in New York for this fine version of his enduring ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.’
Finally, Ms. Twain stars on her own live album, 2015’s Still The One: Live From Vegas, where she puts her relaxed and authoritative vocal stamp on ‘I Ain’t No Quitter,’ previously one of the new songs on her 2004 Greatest Hits collection. Do let us know the Shania album tracks that you think deserve wider attention in the comments section below.