Review: Staci Griesbach: My Shania Twain Songbook

Staci Griesbach: My Shania Twain Songbook
Release Date: December 18, 2020

Vocalist Staci Griesbach looks to superstar country singer/songwriter Shania Twain’s career-launching second album, 1995’s The Woman in Me, and reworks seven of its songs for her own sophomore effort, My Shania Twain Songbook.

Just as she did with her 2019 debut album My Patsy Cline Songbook, Griesbach injects respect and passion into her tribute for Twain, an artist who represented a coming of age for Griesbach when she was in high school in the mid-Nineties.

“Shania demonstrated confidence in being a woman, she dared to show her femininity, her ambition and her talent,” states Griesbach in the album’s liners. “And she didn’t shy away from her strength.”

As someone wholly unfamiliar with Twain’s catalog—my knowledge of the wildly popular songstress doesn’t extend beyond noting her smile on a bunch of record store standees back in the Nineties—I approached Griesbach’s collection with prudence. Further, my awareness of country music mostly harkens to the past and such first-namers as Patsy, Loretta, Merle, Hank and Johnny. So, I went in blind, having no familiarity with any of Twain’s original songs.

I needn’t have worried as Griesbach’s warm and elegant voice is the main attraction here, just like last time.

As she did on her Cline tribute, Griesbach and her regular arranger, Tamir Hendelmen, re-interpret Twain’s catalog through a jazz filter, alternating between slower numbers and more up-tempo honky-tonkers. Standing out are Griesbach’s torchy balladeering on “Is There Life After Love” and her melancholic lament on “God Bless the Child.” Leading the livelier songs are the ‘Woman Power’-embracing, infidelity-accusing “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” (featuring a spirited piano break by Hendelmen) and the brassy album closer “Any Man of Mine.”

It’s all very flavorful and satisfying. And as the entire project was created during the pandemic—the players were apparently scattered all over the country and many parts were electronically sent in from remote locations—the overall richness of the production is to be applauded. (Griesbach’s band features the outstanding rhythm section of well-regarded L.A. session drummer Jake Reed and the great double bassist Chuck Berghofer, late of L.A.s famed Wrecking Crew.)

So now that Griesbach has taken on the songs of two grand country chanteuses, I’m wondering what kind of jazz-country creations she could craft on her own. Having proven her breadth of talent and remarkable ear when adapting others’ music, the places she could go with her own compositions could only be even more intriguing and inspired.

Buy My Shania Twain Songbook

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.