Sunday, 18 March 2012

Reba McEntire - one from each decade

When I started writing this entry, I was originally going to go for my Top 5 Reba songs, but then I realised that there's just so many that I had no idea where to begin. So, to make it a little more interesting, and to celebrate her long career, here's my favourite song from each of Reba's decades, from the '70s to the '10s.

Glad I Waited Just For You

The seventies isn't really the golden age of McEntire's career, with just two albums of material to select from. Her debut, self-titled album is surprisingly strong, if not particularly reflective of her later style, and I really like this simple, understated declaration of love, and the satisfaction that comes from finally having found The One. And yes, the instrumentation is eerily reminiscent of 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'.

Whoever's In New England

The lead single from McEntire's successful breakout album, My Kind of Country, 'Whoever's In New England' takes the perspective of a devoted wife who knows that her husband is cheating on her in his frequent business trips, yet swears to stand by him, and to be there for him 'when whoever's in New England's through with you'. It's extremely touching, and McEntire's sympathetic yet dignified performance is largely responsible for that.

For My Broken Heart

A very difficult decade to choose just one song, but eventually I settled on this, the title track from her 1991 album, the best of her career. The narrator is emotionally recovering after helping her lover to load up the car and leave her, and slowly realises that the world around her is carrying on and so she must too. Like many of Reba's best songs, it's heartbreaking in its everyday, mundane detail and its reflection of real, human, adult emotion.

Every Other Weekend

Narrated from the perspective of both halves of a divorced couple, this is a touching account of their feelings as they share custody of their children. Once again, it's all about the details - the loneliness of the mother when her children are away ("nothing to do and all day not to do it in") and the father trying desperately to please his children ("'that's not the way mom does it, Dad.' It breaks my heart"). The characters are completely identifiable and oh-so-real, and Chesney and McEntire combine their best in a heartbreaking performance.

(Except the Kenny Chesney version isn't on YouTube, so here's the radio version with Skip Ewing)

If I Were A Boy

Probably not a popular choice, many critics disliked this pop cover from McEntire's most recent album, citing it as an example of her dumbing-down, not acting her age and not being country enough. I disagree. The first time I heard this song, I was struck by just how well it worked with McEntire's signature twang, and how well it transferred to the country genre.

One thing that struck me while I was researching and writing this post was just how detailed McEntire's songs are, and how real the characters are. As well as being a canny selector of songs, McEntire lives the characters, their thoughts and their emotions, and brings it all out with her authoritative, sympathetic interpretation that reflects her years, her experiences and her maturity. Those things are her strength, and I hope she never leaves them behind.