Album Review: Reba McEntire – All the Women I Am

Blake Boldt | November 11th, 2010

Reba McEntire - All the Women I AmThe lack of dramatics on today’s playlists have threatened to turn country radio into a complete yawn. Enter, stage left: one of the genre’s most talented ambassadors, Reba McEntire, who can deliver a masterful vocal performance like few others in the format. With a stunning string of 59 Top 10 singles, McEntire’s astonishing consistency is a tribute to her knowledge of the heart. She sings from a female perspective, always mindful of their struggles with ex-lovers and lowly jobs, all the while willing to offer a sage bit of advice with her warm alto. Her albums–All the Women I Am is the multimedia icon’s 34th studio release–have almost all contained their share of filler, but there are rewards for those who can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Women suffers from a couple of major missteps. “Turn on the Radio,” with its chunky rhythms and a cacophony of female background singers, clashes against McEntire’s curling drawl, while her twanged-up version of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” proves that even a musical legend doesn’t land every punch. The effort to lend a modern edge to her music and stretch beyond her traditional country roots has often yielded poor results for the timeless performer.

When she’s gifted with a great song, the fiery redhead is amply qualified for the task. The title track is an autobiographical account that attempts to define McEntire’s split personae–country bumpkin and city diva–while honoring her faithful fans: “I’m a daughter of the red dirt, Okie dust still in my bones/But I can light up New York City with my red hair and rhinestones.” She tries on many hats here–scorned lover, trusted friend, feisty career woman–but the best song might be Tom Douglas’ “When You Love a Child,” a tender ballad where she revels in the role she cherishes most: mother.

Women is a crash course in dealing with emotional hurdles. There’s a great deal of value when McEntire sings about volatile emotions, and she builds a rapport with female listeners by admitting her own frailties.

That’s most clear on the country weeper “Cry,” where McEntire moves forward in the midst of a bad breakup (“I’m not gonna cry, not one single drop.”). She’s consistently portrayed herself as a trusted confidant, and her listeners seem to draw lessons from her mistakes. On “Bridge You Burn,” a toe-tapping scorcher heavy on fiddle and banjo, McEntire explains patiently to her best friend that an old flame is best left in the past. And, as a gently-plucked guitar highlights the tension of the moment, she sings sympathetically about a depressed, middle-aged woman on “The Day She Got Divorced.”

To top it off, McEntire offers her own composition to the album, “Somebody’s Chelsea,” a song extolling the power of unconditional love that she wrote with Liz Hengber and Will Robinson.

For the fairer sex, it’s not been a banner year on the airwaves: only four solo women have earned Top 10 hits this calendar year. Driven by a renewed desire to stay relevant on Music Row, McEntire has once again balanced her more commercial instincts with a real knack for picking quality songs.

3.5 Stars

  1. Ben Foster
    November 11, 2010 at 7:17 am

    This album has some good songs on it. I actually liked Reba’s version of “If I Were a Boy.” I thought she delivered it well, and I liked the trills of steel guitar.

  2. Stormy
    November 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

    If we must do a top 40 song on a country album can someone cover Rhianna’s Unfaithful?

  3. Razor X
    November 11, 2010 at 10:11 am

    The lack of dramatics on today’s playlists have threatened to turn country radio into a complete yawn

    I don’t see what anything on this album does to counterbalance that. I found it rather lackluster and dull from start to finish. I agree that “When You Have A Child” is the best song in the set. This is a more cohesive album than Reba’s last effort, and the production is surprisingly restrained on the ballads, but most of the songs are just not that interesting.

  4. J.R. Journey
    November 11, 2010 at 10:58 am

    ‘When You Have A Child’ was a real snoozer for me, but I seem to be in the minority on that. I liked her take on ‘If I Were A Boy’ too, Choice tracks for me include ‘Cry’, ‘The Day She Got Divorced’ (the best Reba track in ages IMO), and the title track.

  5. Travis
    November 11, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I love this CD. My favs so far are: Cry, A Little Want To, All the Women I am, If I Were A Boy
    Way to go Reba!! I’ve listened to this CD several x’s now and it just keeps getting better.

  6. Jonathan
    November 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I have to say this is one of my favorite albums from her in a long time. She did pick and or co-write some great songs, especially “The Day She Got Divorced” and “Somebody’s Chelsea.”

    There is a lot of potential for huge hits which is great to see. I just wish she had found another song with the production style of “Consider Me Gone.” That track grabbed me right away.

    Another solid album from Reba!

  7. Rick
    November 11, 2010 at 11:39 am

    If Reba wears the right outfits, she can become the Lady GaGa of country music! Or is it the Beyonce of country music? I get so confused…

  8. Code
    November 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    This is a fantastic review, its a really good album, i think somebody’s chelsea and the bridge you burn are really the highlights of the album

  9. Bernie
    November 12, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Love this Reba album — favorites are “When Love Gets A Hold Of You,” “A Little Want To,” and “Somebody’s Chelsea.” I hope all three of these songs are released as radio singles. Way to go, Reba — pretty sure we’re going to be hearing a lot of your songs on country radio from this album! Yee-haw!

  10. Trish
    November 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I am really disappointed in this album. I would hardly call it country and would more categorize it as pop. I used to love Reba but the final straw was at the CMA awards a couple days ago when she sang the Beyonce song If I Was a Boy What is up with that and how can yo have a brand new album hitting the stores and not even play one of your own songs? Even worse she does a Beyonce song!

  11. Troy
    November 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

    ” I would hardly call it country and would more categorize it as pop. I used to love Reba but the final straw was at the CMA awards a couple days ago when she sang the Beyonce song If I Was a Boy What is up with that and how can yo have a brand new album hitting the stores and not even play one of your own songs? Even worse she does a Beyonce song!”

    Did Whiteney Houston become a country singer when she covered I will Always Love You? Because to me it sounds like your saying because Reba sang a beyonce song Reba is now pop.

  12. Paul W Dennis
    November 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Ugh ! The descent into sludge continues

    This album proves that space aliens exist since obviously they kidnapped the Reba who sang country music and replaced her with a vapid clone

  13. Lewis
    November 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I think that it would have been better if Reba had done If I Were A Boy as a duet with Beyonce in the same way she did with Kelly Clarkson and Because of You. I seriously doubt that since it’s her next single from the looks of things by the CMA performance that this will reach Top 10. Top 20 maybe but not Top 10.

  14. Lucas
    November 12, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Let us not forget that Reba isn’t using Tony Brown anymore as a producer and used Dann Huff for this project. Mr. Huff is an astounding guitar player, probably one of the best and has been one of the “executioners of music row” over the past 10 years.

    His projects include: Lonestar, Rascal Flatts, recently Martina, Keith Urban, Faith sometimes etc etc. I don’t think he’s ever used a fiddle or steel guitar in his productions and is a pioneer of the rapid drum beats.

  15. Jake
    November 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I’ve listened to the album many times through. It’s interesting to read the comments and see the different views. “If I Were A Boy” seems to be a love it or hate it (count me in the former category), whereas there is a lot of support for “The Day She Got Divorced,” which is probably my least favorite song Reba has recorded in the 19 years I’ve been listening to country music. But I think that speaks to how broad Reba’s appeal is, which is a good thing.

    For me, the standouts on the album are the aforementioned “If I Were A Boy” (best song on the album), “Somebody’s Chelsea,” “The Bridge You Burn,” “Turn On The Radio,” “A Little Want To,” and the title track.

    Overall, I think the album as a whole is one of her better packages, ranking up there with FOR MY BROKEN HEART, READ MY MIND and REBA DUETS.

  16. Thomas
    November 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    …if it wasn’t a reba album, it’d probably go unnoticed and quite understandably so. the fact, that a cover is the most remarkable song of the batch says it all really.

  17. Fizz
    November 12, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Rejected album title: Who Do You Want Me To Be To Stay On The Radio?

    “When she’s gifted with a great song …” GIfted, hell! She paid good money for ‘em!

    And all this talk of her singing from the female perspective, the slightly-older-best-friend sidekick character in a chick-flick or goofy-girl novel … wonder how many of her songs were written by men?

  18. Leeann Ward
    November 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Dann Huff…one of my least favorite producers. That explains why I think the production for this album is as dull as it can be.

  19. Razor X
    November 12, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    He’s one of my least favorites, too, Leeann, but I was actually expecting a more over-the-top , Rascal Flatts type production. This is a lot more restrained than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, it’s also interminably dull. It pains me to say it because Reba’s always been one of my favorites but she seems to have lost the ability to select good songs. This is the third sub-par album in a row.

  20. K
    November 13, 2010 at 12:07 am

    “He’s one of my least favorites, too, Leeann, but I was actually expecting a more over-the-top , Rascal Flatts type production.”

    You’ve heard “Why Wait,” I assume? The track was produced by Huff, and was probably the first hint of restrained production to come.

    Having listened to the new album, I can also confirm that Dann’s production on the album are much more toned down, and in the vein of actual quality pop country production.

    “It pains me to say it because Reba’s always been one of my favorites but she seems to have lost the ability to select good songs.”

    I don’t think it’s possible for an artist to “lose” the ability to select good songs. I think the blame lies more on the fact that Reba wants to remain relevant and radio-friendly for as long as the formula scores her a hit.

    Face it, if she didn’t bother to record radio ear candy fluff like “Turn On The Radio,” “Love Needs A Holiday,” and “Consider Me Gone, would she still be noticed by radio? I would argue the answer is no, considering the weak track record for hitmaking females over 50 that still manage to sell records and get played on mainstream country stations.

    Reba is an artist with incredible talent, but her thirst to create great songs and albums has been declining for a few years now. If Reba wasn’t the beautiful- 40-something looking female who records music trying to please the radio crowd, this is the kind of album she’s undoubtdly going to end up with.

    And considering Reba is the only artist I can think of who heavily praises artists who record the same type of vapid material, I think it’s safe to say that trend won’t be ending anytime soon.

  21. Matt Bjorke
    November 13, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Lucas said w/r/t Dann Huff:

    I don’t think he’s ever used a fiddle or steel guitar in his productions and is a pioneer of the rapid drum beats.

    *facepalm*

    Have you actually heard any of these records he’s produced? They’re laced with a lot of steel guitar and fiddles. Check out the SheDaisy records for starters. Pop-leaning doesn’t mean fiddles and steel guitars are gone from the mix.

  22. Jooliann Huff
    November 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    THE DAY THAT REBA WRITES A SONG OF HER OWN AND/OR STOPS SINGING CLICHE SONGS ABOUT GIRL POWER IS THE DAY THAT I PAY FOR ONE OF HER CDS. She is no more country than taylor swift or carrie underwood simply because she has been in the business longer.

  23. Razor X
    November 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Reba has written some of her own songs. Her biggest self-penned hit was 1985’s “Only In My Mind.”

    So enjoy that CD you’ll be buying.

  24. Razor X
    November 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t think it’s possible for an artist to “lose” the ability to select good songs. I think the blame lies more on the fact that Reba wants to remain relevant and radio-friendly for as long as the formula scores her a hit.

    I don’t know why it isn’t possible to remain relevant and still find stronger material. I really don’t think that the ballads on this record are radio-friendly at all.

    My complaint isn’t that her recent material has been pop-leaning. I just haven’t found it very interesting.

  25. JTopps
    November 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Country is pop leaning, it isn’t just Reba. It’s still better than the alternative of what passes for music on the Top 100 list.

  26. stormy
    November 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    That doesn’t pass for alternative country.

  27. John
    November 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Late to the review, but I am definitely in agreement. Overall, it’s a solid set. It’s not a masterpiece, but I think this is another step toward being relevant again while remaining true to who she is. She’s always been an actress through her music, and I love her for it. So much better than the last couple of albums.

  28. Kandra Halle
    December 9, 2010 at 2:58 am

    I could not agree more John! I love Reba for remaining true to herself while trying to stay current and so many more reasons!

  29. Regina George
    December 9, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Does anyone else Not see the appeal of Reba? I mean, what has she really done for country music except ride the cliche fame wagon to 2010 by singing oh so touching songs about being married and having kids like “18 hours in the story of love” and “when you have a child,” long enough to be considered “respected.” Does she even have a child? She’s got no concrete image, her voice is less than amazing and she makes weird faces. Frankly, I miss her gross curly afro because at least then she stood out. And she’s always bitchin like, “We want country music back!” and proclaiming “now thats country music, aint it!?” and “Theres country for ya!” and she goes and released a song like “turn on the radio.” Btw who really seriously wants a mental image of Reba being turned on? Catchy, i’ll admit it. But who are you tryin’ to kid, girl? Hey reba call me when you decide to do something original, maybe pick up a pen and write a song, or something crazier like learn to play an instrument. dissapointed in you Borchetta!

  30. Barry Mazor
    December 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I know it’s weird, Regina, but sometimes singers sing. They don’t write; they don’t play instruments. They sing. Some of them do it well.

    Asked any writers not to just write songs but sing lately? Asked any good rhythm guitarists to write?

  31. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Reba does write.

  32. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Reba does write.

    Just barely. ASCAP’s database shows her with credits on a total of 23 songs, which I believe works out to well under 1 a year since she began recording – and that includes arrangement credits on a couple of Christmas songs and a bunch of co-writes, mostly with pretty prolific and high-powered writers like Don Schlitz. So while the statement’s technically true, it’s substantively misleading, which is unfortunate in part because it’s so unnecessary. To understand why it’s unnecessary, see Barry’s post.

  33. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    So while the statement’s technically true, it’s substantively misleading …

    There’s nothing misleading about it.

    … which is unfortunate in part because it’s so unnecessary.

    What’s unnecessary was the time you spend looking up and posting this information in a futile attempt to try to discredit an accurate statement

  34. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Didn’t take me any time at all to point out how misleading it is to say “Reba does write” when what she does is very occasionally co-write. I’ll bet it took less time than it will take you to look up what “occasionally” means.

  35. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Last time I checked, co-writing was writing.

  36. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I guess it’s going to take even longer than I thought for you to look up “occasionally.”

  37. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    But not as long as I thought for you to make a total ass of yourself …. again.

  38. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I see that it’s taken you longer to look up what “occasionally”means than it’s taken me to find this quote from Reba:

    “LF: Have you thought about doing a song that addresses gay marriage, or dedicating a honeymoon song specifically to gay couples?

    RM: Since I don’t write, I don’t say I’m going to write a song about that like Kelly can do. If she’s got a topic she can sit down and write a song.”

    Is there some part of “I don’t write” that you don’t understand? Of course, that statement offers is a little misleading, but not as misleading as yours.

  39. luckyoldsun
    December 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Co-writing is writing, but in many instances top artist are given co-writer credit for contributing little or nothing to the song. We don’t know whether or not that’s the case here.

    In any event, Reba McEntire is sufficiently distinctive a singer, performer and personality that she does not need to write her own songs. Sinatra and Elvis didn’t write either!

  40. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    “Is there some part of “I don’t write” that you don’t understand?”

    Ever heard of anyone being misquoted in an interview? Or do you just automatically believe everything you read? I’m not saying she *was* misquoted, but it’s a possibility.

    She does write. It’s an established fact. What part of that don’t you understand? You can spin it any way you want, but there is no getting around the fact that she has written some songs, by herself and with co-writers. Granted, she may not be a prolific writer, but that wasn’t the issue that was being addressed.

  41. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    in many instances top artist are given co-writer credit for contributing little or nothing to the song. We don’t know whether or not that’s the case here.

    Where do you know that is the case? Out of those many instances, could you name 10? 5?

    she does not need to write her own songs.

    Exactly. That’s a much better defense of Ms McEntire than Razor X’s, since it has the virtue of simple truth.

  42. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Or do songwriters lose their status as songwriters in between songs, like fans lose their status when they don’t like an artist’s latest album?

  43. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    “she does not need to write her own songs.

    Exactly. That’s a much better defense of Ms McEntire than Razor X’s, since it has the virtue of simple truth.

    She doesn’t need to write her own songs, but sometimes she does. That is the simple truth but you don’t seem to want to admit it.

  44. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Given the choice between Reba McEntire’s characterization of herself and Razor X’s, I’ll take Ms McEntire’s. Call me crazy, but I feel like she just might have a better handle on the right way to describe herself than he does.

  45. Razor X
    December 9, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I didn’t offer a description of Reba McEntire. I simply stated that she has written some songs, which is an indisputable fact, except perhaps in your Through The Looking Glass world.

  46. Jon
    December 9, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I simply stated that she has written some songs

    Uh, nope. You simply stated that “Reba does write.” Which, as I said, is substantively misleading, since she writes about as often as an American League pitcher bats. Misleading and unnecessary.

  47. luckyoldsun
    December 9, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    JON
    in many instances top artist are given co-writer credit for contributing little or nothing to the song. We don’t know whether or not that’s the case here.

    Where do you know that is the case? Out of those many instances, could you name 10? 5?

    Webb Pierce was legendary for getting co-writer credit for songs he didn’t write, such as “I Ain’t Never” by Mel Tillis.
    Johnny Cash used is credited as a writer on a whole bunch of songs that he adopted from others, including, sad to say, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

    In any event, I don’t know the point of your question, since it certainly appeared from your reference to “prolific and high-powered writers like Don Schlitz” that you were insinuating just that about McEntire–that she was just along for the ride on those co-writing sessions.

    Anyway, common sense says it’s true. If Garth in his heyday called up a Dennis Robbins or someone like that and invited him to a co-writing session, or if Chesney invites someone to co-write, I’m sure the professional songwriter won’t gripe if the superstar contributes only 1 or 2 lines to the song. He’ll be more than happy just to get a couple of cuts on the next multiplatinum album.

  48. Matt Bjorke
    December 9, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Luckyoldsun,

    Back in the day it was common for top artists to require a songwriting credit in order for that song to get a co-write.

    Garth often DIDN’T take credit for writing parts of songs or changing substantial pars. One example is “Beer Run.” Chesney writes so many songs by himself that I don’t think he does the ‘one or two line’ thing much, if at all.

    I’d dare to say that a better way to look at a star who writes few songs is if they write a song by themselves at any time. Cause if they do, well, then they’re songwriters and if they don’t, well, they’re just ‘in the room’ for whatever reason. (It’s a fair bet to say that Miss Underwood and Reba fall in this latter group).

  49. luckyoldsun
    December 10, 2010 at 12:12 am

    MB–
    Interesting.
    Randy Travis has written a handful of songs and they’ve all been fairly lame in my view–all except for “I Told You So,” which is a well-crafted professional piece of work, as good as anything he’s recorded. I always had my suspicions over whether he really wrote that.

  50. Jon
    December 11, 2010 at 8:43 am

    @lucky old sun. I asked for 10 examples, you gave 2 from a half century ago. What you’re referring to – buying songs outright or attaching an artist’s name to a song after it waswritten in order to get the artist to cut it – was never all tnat common to begin with, and it pretty much disappeared decades ago.

    As for the rest, the point is that if you’re not actually part of the process, you don’t know for sure how a song got written. And it’s often the case that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to easily characterize the exact degree of contribution from each writer in terms of either quantity or quality, which means that it’s pointless to try. Case in point: what Matt thinks is “a fair bet” with respect to Carrie Underwood runs counter to what at least one of her co-writers has to say.

  51. Code
    January 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Regina, just because an artist doesnt write a lot doesnt mean anything. Patsy cline didnt right,neither did george strait, reba has written more than them but does that mean we should go to the country music hall of fame and tear down their plaques. When you have a child is an amazing song that is age-appropriate and shows off reba’s stellar vocals. If you even knew anything about reba you would know that she does have a son.

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