Album Review: Heidi Newfield – What Am I Waiting For?

Matt Clark | August 1st, 2008

Heidi Newfield - What am I Waiting ForWhat am I Waiting For? ought to be a great record. A talented and beautiful artist leaving the two unremarkable guitar slingers who split her earnings for the last ten years for a solo recording contract and a new degree of artistic freedom practically spells potential, and one glance at the track list suggests that Newfield wielded her newfound liberty to great effect. A Lucinda Williams cover, cuts by George Strait favorite Dean Dillon and evocative Music Row outsider Lori McKenna and numerous co-writes by Newfield, who’s no mean songstress herself, all in the hands of veteran producer Tony Brown, set a commendably high standard, even if What Am I Waiting For doesn’t quite live up to its lofty aspirations.

The first several tracks sure make it sound like Newfield is hitting her ambitious mark: “Can’t Let Go,” which was cut by the aforementioned Ms. Williams and also made a recent appearance on Ashley Monroe’s unreleased Sony debut, is dressed up with a harmonica that plays nicely against the dobro-driven melody, and Newfield lays a dynamic vocal over a steel guitar on “When Tears Fall Down.” Lead single “Johnny and June” is diminished by its association with the recent explosion of lesser name-checking songs, but sounds good against the rest of the album, while title track “What Am I Waiting For?” is anther good choice even if it’s hard to get past chuckling at the realization that Newfield’s co-writers (and former Trick Pony bandmates) Ira Dean and Keith Burns must’ve seen the writing on the wall when Newfield sang lines like “I’m five years in to a two year plan/Still standing here with the walls closing in behind this open door/What am I waiting for?

Still, What Am I Waiting For? is not chock-full of these good choices. Take “Cry, Cry ‘Til the Sun Shines,” a puerile self-help anthem that, of all the songs on Martina McBride’s Waking Up Laughing is perhaps the least deserving of a second chance, and “Nothing Burns Like a Memory,” a vapid piece of country-funk that clashes with the tone of the project. “Knocked Up” is perfectly pleasant itself, but it’s a poor choice to end an album with lines like, “Knocked up/Shame shame/I’m a-gonna ruin my family name/Here comes what Granny’s been dreading/A belly full of baby and a shotgun wedding.” The fact that these weak songs come in succession on the second-half of the album makes What Am I Waiting For? a profoundly top-heavy project.

Even some songs that aren’t downright mistakes sound like country-lite, potentially poignant tracks that are dulled on the edge by Newfield and the responsible songwriters. “Love Her, Lose Me” is built around the quintessentially Dean Dillon hook, “what’s it like to love her and to lose me?” but when Newfield and fellow co-writer Dale Dotson come into the mix, it becomes a non-progressive collection of committee-written metaphors that chase each other like a dog chases its tail. Co-writer Lori McKenna imbues “Wreck You” with the sorrow of a woman who just can’t do right by her man, but there’s a reason that the song is on Heidi Newfield’s solo debut instead of the newest Faith Hill or Sara Evans records: it just doesn’t have the bite of those more famous cuts or the songs on McKenna’s recent major label debut.

This quality of falling just short of greatness is typical of too many of the tracks on What Am I Waiting For, almost as if Newfield is assuming the role of solo artist with slight trepidation that’s palpable throughout, as if she hasn’t quite stepped out of the shadow of Trick Pony into her own spotlight.

So, Ms. Newfield, what are you waiting for?

3.5 Stars

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  1. Chris N.
    August 1, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Ha! The “weak” songs you mention are my favorites on the record. I think overall the album shows a lot of depth she didn’t get to demonstrate in TP.

  2. Ron B
    August 1, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Ok, so you have issues with song choice. Well that is a matter of personal preference. What is a great song to one, is a mediocre to another. When I listen to the songs on this CD, I hear some that will live on for a long time.

  3. Lanibug
    August 1, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I will hold back my responses until I get a chance to listen to the album – and since I wont until Tuesday — I have always been a fan of her voice — so I am looking forward to this album –

  4. Marc
    August 1, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Too many redos.. and I’m still not a big fan of her voice. Worth a listen or two though.

  5. Brady Vercher
    August 1, 2008 at 10:52 am

    I mostly agree with Matt’s review, but I thought the songs were a little more bland. “Nothing Burns Like A Memory” is a second rate “Kerosene” knock off and “All I Wanna Do” is a fairly generic love song. I agree that the first 3 or 4 are the better tracks on the album, but there’s not really anything that I’d look forward to hearing again; it just doesn’t have much to offer.

  6. Matt C.
    August 1, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Brady, this album grew on me significantly during the review process, more than any album that I’ve reviewed this year. It gained a full star from the first to the last listen.

  7. Brady Vercher
    August 1, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I wondered about your rating as I felt 2.5 to 3 would have been more like it. I thought the song selection was pretty poor overall and it really started to go downhill after “Johnny and June” or “What Am I Waiting For.” Is there anything that you’d legitimately look forward to listening to again?

  8. Matt C.
    August 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I have a higher opinion of the song selection than you do. I felt similarly after I listened to the album for the first time, but in subsequent listens I better noticed “Love Her, Lose Me” and “Wreck You,” which, as I note, could be better but are still good songs in my opinion. There’s not much standout writing on this album, but I don’t think that there’s any weak writing on it either. I consider it a cut above average.

    I probably won’t make an effort to listen to the album again (though I won’t skip most tracks when they pop up in the shuffle). The track I’d be most likely to listen to again is “Can’t Let Go.”

  9. Brady Vercher
    August 1, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Fair enough. I gave it about 3 listens and I gotta agree that the songwriting isn’t necessarily weak in most areas, it’s just bland. I’d probably choose “Can’t Let Go” as the standout as well.

  10. Brad
    August 1, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I am very upset, and dissapointed with the album. I am a Heidi fan, and was exctied for this album and tried hard to like this album. Overall, the album is extremely average. I agree that a three and a half star review is way too generous.

  11. Chris N.
    August 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    You guys are really hearing a different record than I am.

  12. Rick
    August 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Although “Can’t Let Go” was made famous by Lucinda Williams, the songwriter Randy Weeks used to perform it at his gigs at The Cinema Bar in Culver City before he moved away… I am content with Ashley Monroe’s version as I am a self-confessed “Fan Boy” where Ashley is concerned.

    I’ve never been much of a Heidi/Trick Pony fan and what I’ve heard off this album isn’t going to sway me in her direction. My first encounter was the music video for “Pour Me” which I almost mistook for a “Girl’s Gone Wild” infomercial. That video and word “trick” in their band name made me think of another famous Heidi (last name Fleiss).

    I’m more of a fan of Shannon Brown (whom I class in the same category) and I think these two should do some sort of publicity stunt together to raise market awareness. A mud wrestling grudge match comes to mind……

  13. Stephen H.
    August 1, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Chris, you were sent the “Country Weekly Deluxe Pack Special Edition,” which would explain that. Record companies have figured they can release so many special editions to retailers, they’d might as well release a bunch of different editions to reviewers.

  14. Mirandas2cool
    August 3, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    From the two songs ive heardfrom it, im really looking forward to the rest of it. Johnny and June is one of my faves, and i like Heidi in general.

  15. Mirandas2cool
    August 5, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I picked up the cd today (only 10 tracks?). Johnny and June is probably still my fave , but i like the album overall. Besides “Nothing burns like a memory” (which i agree w/ Brady about the kerosene knock-off) i pretty much liked every song. “What am i waiting for” is a really good song that could do fair as a single and after i got over the “clicheness” of “Knocked up” i found it to be rather funny (and sang it for hours as it got stuck in my head). lol Good cd!

  16. Bobby
    August 5, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Wow, Curb actually got on the ball and released an album when they said they would. Why was that such a hard concept when Amy Dalley was still on their roster?

  17. Lanibug
    August 6, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    OK – so after listening, I truly like the album – not a fan of the “Cant Let Go” because I love Ashley’s version – but I love “Love Her, Lose Me” and I liked all of the other songs — but then again everyone’s taste in music is different

  18. Joye
    August 7, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I love this song, she is great!

  19. Roy Mabe Jr.
    March 13, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Heidi Newfield’s first album as a solo artist might not have done well,but where’s album number two?

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