Reba’s third album for MCA, released in July 1985, saw her on a roll both commercially and artistically. She had just won her first CMA Female Vocalist of the Year title in 1984, and was to win again in 1985 thanks partly to the success of this album. Her rich voice is at its best, and she exercises it on a selection of excellent songs, including a couple she wrote herself. Have I Got A Deal For You was also Reba’s first production credit, alongside the experienced Jimmy Bowen – an important step in her career development, at a time when not that many artists were co-producing their records. The record feels like a natural progression from its predecessor, My Kind Of Country, retaining the traditional feel, with some lovely fiddle from the legendary Johnny Gimble, and steel from Weldon Myrick, but using newly written songs where the latter had mixed old and new.
Only two singles were released, both reaching the top 10: the fiddle-heavy western swing of the title track, written by Michael P Heeney and Jackson Leap is enjoyable if one of the lesser moments here, and reached #6. The excellent and memorable ‘Only In My Mind’, one of the few songs Reba has written, got one spot higher, and deserved to do better still. It tells of the heartstopping moment when with “a move that would have made the wind stand still”, the protagonist’s husband asks her an unexpected question. The answer he gets is a devastating one:
“He said, ‘Have you ever cheated on me?’
I said, ‘Only in my mind’.”
Not an answer designed to make him feel any better, and delivered in a perfectly nuanced manner by Reba as she then addresses the man to whom she has an emotional connection she feels her husband could never understand. Reba also co-wrote ‘She’s The One Loving You Now’ with David Anthony and Leigh Reynolds, where a downbeat lyric sounds almost inappropriately cheery.
One song which really should have been a hit single for Reba is ‘She’s Single Again’, but a rival version by Janie Fricke beat her to the punch (Janie’s version reached #2 on Billboard). Reba’s take on the song (written by Charlie Craig and Peter McCann) is irresistible, however, as she indignantly warns her married friends to keep close watch on their husbands, as the local femme fatale is back on the market and hunting again:
“Is this number 4, is this number 5?
How many husbands has she buried alive?
She uses the favors that the good Lord gave her
With the devil’s design.”
This album majors on great uptempo numbers, including ‘Whose Heartache Is This Anyway’, written by Wayland Holyfield and Jim McBride, a trenchant rebuff of an ex-lover’s insincere attempt to smooth over the pain, which is reminiscent of Pam Tillis’s breakthrough hit of a few years later, ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’:
“I’m not in the mood for sympathy
At least not from the one who’s leaving me …
Why don’t you just go now
You’ve done enough today
And whose heartache is this, anyway?”
Slighter, but still entertaining is ‘I Don’t Need Nothin’ You Ain’t Got’, although it has dated a little thanks to its namechecking Robert Redford as the sex symbol Reba doesn’t need since she’s got her man. The exuberant ‘I’m In Love All Over’ has some nice train rhythms courtesy of Gimble’s fiddle, although the song itself is the least interesting on the album.
My personal favorite track is one of the few ballads, ‘Red Roses (Won’t Work Now’), written by Jimbeau Hinson and David Murphy, a beautifully nuanced song about a woman who has at last learned from experience. Sadder but wiser, she rejects her husband’s latest attempt at reconciliation:
“You can tell me you love me
But thats the one thing I’ll always doubt …
So faithless love, why don’t you
Save the roses for ‘You know who’
I already know how long they’ll last.”
Of the other ballads, Heeney and Leap’s ‘The Great Divide’ is a sad look at the gulf in a marriage, and ‘Don’t Forget Your Way Home’ closes the album with an offer of sanctuary to the restless husband she is letting go.
This may not be one of Reba’s best remembered albums, but I think it is one of her best. It is readily available.