Album Review: Reba McEntire – All the Women I Am
The 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.
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- Arlene: Sorry. I meant to give the link for "Supper Time." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ58Kfe41kI
- Arlene: Another song sung by Ethel Waters: Irving Berlin's "Supper Time"
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- Ron: Sky Above, Mud Below by Tom Russell is another.
- Jack Williams: Another Othis Taylor song from White African is "My Soul's in Louisiana."