By 1997, Martina McBride was beginning to assert herself as the premiere female vocalist in country music, but she wouldn’t begin to take home awards until after she released ‘Evolution’ on August 26 of that year. Songs from her fourth studio album won her the Female Vocalist of the Year CMA in 1999. Many of her biggest hits, like ‘Happy Girl,’ ‘A Broken Wing’ and ‘Whatever You Say,’ come from this project.

McBride also recorded two well-received duets, including ‘Valentine’ with Jim Brickman, which became her first to have major crossover success. Fans and critics also appreciated ‘I’m Little but I’m Loud,’ a song she recorded when she was just 7 years old.

Reviews praised the singer for being different — in a special way — from all of her previous albums, although some criticized the album for sounding too pop. “This release is about as interesting as a Kansas landscape,” Susan Campbell of the Harford Courant wrote. “Yeah, it’s pretty, but you really need to know what to look for.”

Others disagreed. “Furthermore, McBride’s songs remain staunchly independent and strong-willed, with clear feminist overtones, which helps make ‘Evolution’ a rarity among contemporary country albums — it’s catchy and it has a heart,” said.

With three million copies sold and four Top 10 hits, the verdict 15 years later is clear: ‘Evolution’ is a classic.

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