It was a bold decision to kick off her first non-holiday album in nearly 4 years with a cover of Brandi Carlile's "The Story" but that is perhaps what LeAnn Rimes needed the most. The lyrics really do fit where she is and where she's been in her life and that's exactly what Remnants is for her, a deeply personal collection of songs from a woman who grew up in the public eye and the lessons she's learned on her journey. While recorded as a pop record, Remnants actually isn't to dissimilar from where mainstream country music is these days and that could spell for a return to the country charts in some capacity should LeAnn and her team choose to go down that road in the USA. Working with her close friend and songwriting partner Darrell Brown in the co-producer chair (they also penned 11 of the 14 tracks here, many with the other co-producer, LeAnn's fellow Grammy winner Mark Batson), LeAnn brings a rootsy funk to the soulful "Love Line," a song which wouldn't be out of place on an Erykah Badu record while the painfully honest "Mother" finds LeAnn coming to terms with that very public childhood and how her mother raised her the best she knew how to do. It's intimate, hushed and a very strong vocal moment on a record full of them.
The title track "Remnants" is about picking yourself up off the ground and building yourself from the remaining pieces to be better than you ever were before ("I will build a kingdom from my remnants). It's a smoldering stomper and is easily in the top 5 vocal performances of LeAnn Rimes' career. US single "Long Live Love" suits a pop/AC chart where it's being marketed and hopefully LeAnn finds a home there again as it's a great tempo-filled track. Always a supporter of LGBT rights, "Love Is Love Is Love" is LeAnn affirming that we should be able to love who we love, no matter if it's "traditional" or other kinds of love. It's uplifting and certainly a song which begs to be played in discos around the world.
As great as those uptempo jams are LeAnn absolutely slays the ballads on this record, from the previously mentioned "Mother" to the Diane Warren-penned "I Couldn't Do That To Me" and the Lori McKenna and Barry Dean-penned "How To Love A Boy," LeAnn showcases that she's a better singer now than she's ever been (and she's always been phenomenal). The latter song builds from piano to orchestra as it chronicles the cycle of love, from the beginning, to the heartbreak to picking up the pieces and harsh realities of love. It's poignant and a brilliant vocal performance, In another world, this one would be a huge multi-format radio smash as it's as good as anything on Adele's 25 while "I Couldn't Do That To Me" is a song about finding love and holding on with all you got because you don't want to get destroyed by heartbreak. "Learning Your Language" is a midtempo ballad about finding the kind of man who becomes everything she never knew she could ever have in a partner. "Do It Wrong With Me" (a song co-produced by Stevie J) is a powerful, soulful Aretha-like number which quickly brings a little Gospel flavor to the melody as LeAnn sings about tabloids and how she feels like she should be naughty with her man because they're going to write about it that way regardless. It's a frank (and the source for the Parental Advisory sticker for one pointed use of the "f word").
With these 14 fantastic songs, Remnants is easily an early contender for my album of the year. Released in the UK via her new label partner RCA UK, the album was issued in partnership with Thirty Tigers in the USA and it's a record that deserves to be heard. While her last album, 2013's Spitfire, may have suggested a different path was coming for LeAnn Rimes, Remnants confirms it and leaves us with one heck of an album and something all music fans should want to listen to.