Reba McEntire “Love Somebody” Album Review

reba mcentire

Prime Cuts: Just Like Them Horses, Love Land, She Got Drunk Last Night

Reba McEntire has two strikes against her.  First, in a genre where looks and youth are prized commodities, McEntire has a tough battle with her peers who are in the raging 20s.  Second, McEntire is not a man.  Save for Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, country music is now almost exclusively cluttered with an all men fraternity.  Instead of retreating to Vegas or Branson and churning out covers album or live recordings of recycled hits, she has given us her twenty-seventh studio album of twelve new songs (fourteen if you buy the Target edition) under Nash Icon label.  Partnering again with veteran producers such as Tony Brown, James Stroud and Doug Sisemore, McEntire has scurried thousands of songs for this bunch.
Instead of trying out sonic cosmetic surgery to make herself sound younger, McEntire has stuck to her mettle as a top class story teller narrating her songs with poise, insights and relevance.  Just as McEntire took on the bull's horns in the 90s for tackling the then taboo issue of AIDS in her ballad "She Thinks His Name was John," here McEntire delves into an issue even closer to the human heart with "She Got Drunk Last Night."  Told through the eyes of a woman who felt that her life was "as faded as the flowers from the wallpaper," you can't help but feel her pain as she wrestles for love and meaning at the expense of alcohol.  And for more songs that does a home run for the heart, take a listen to Liz Hengher and Tommy Lee James' "Just Like Them Hoses."  A moving piano ballad that calls to mind McEntire's iconic hymn to heartbreak "For My Broken Heart," "Horses" speaks of letting go of the person you love in times of death.
Showcasing that she's still the queen of heartbreak songs, "I'll Go On" is a classic McEntire ballad all the way.  Just as if McEntire couldn't go deeper enough to stir the strings of our hearts, we are hit with "Love Land."  A carefully crafted narrative ballad that Martina McBride first recorded in her 2007 "Wake Up Laughing" outing, the story unravels the tribulations of a married couple as they wrestle through a miscarriage before finally having a baby of their own.  And when McEntire sings:  "Now we're watchin' him blow three candles out/He's daddy's little man/And only God could have planned/The steps I've taken," you can't help but say, "Amen." God again is at the cynosure with the McEntire penned "Pray for Peace."  Despite the presence of the Nashville Gospel Choir, Ronnie Dunn and Kelly Clarkson's sonic input, "Pray for Peace" sounds underwritten as the song is merely the constant repetition of its title over and over again. 
"Going Out Like That," the album's lead single which stalled at #28, is pedantic by McEntire's standards.  In an effort to blend in with the Lady Antebellum's and the Sam Hunts, the auto-voicing and the rehashed beats are beneath McEntire.  Much better is trial-resilient "Living Ain't Killed Me Yet"with its snarling electric guitar work and its sassy bassline.  In a genre where bro-country seems to be the dominant topic of conversation, McEntire adds depth and dimension with these entries on "Love Somebody."  Here are stories that will haunt us and get us thinking about life, love, and God in fresh and engaging ways. 



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