My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Reba McEntire – ‘Keep On Loving You’

reba keep on loving you cover
She revisits many of the same themes and ideas she has sung to us about before, at times saying it better than before.  But more
often than not, these recycled themes fall short of the songs of their predecessors.  Reba is in fine voice throughout the entire
album.  Her vocal is the one thing I can’t find any complaints about, it’s sassy when it needs to be, tender when the music calls
for it, and it aches and burns at just the right moment.  Reba has long been a master at interpreting a lyric, and her years of
experience are certainly on display here, even when the songs fail her.
Up-tempo:
Nothing to Lose – Trisha Yearwood’s GH … changed ‘my last cigarette’ to ‘this old paperback’ and Reba gives a more
ferocious vocal, attacking the lyric with a spitfire in her voice.
I’ll Have What She’s Having – western swing, another smoking vocal …
A remixed ‘I Want a Cowboy’ dance mix sent to clubs all over America, busy music, young lyrics it should suit that crowd just
fine, even if it’s not really my style.
Consider Me Gone – second single, 90s pop-country feel, classic Reba ‘strong-woman’ theme.
Ballads: – ‘But Why’ … more of the classic Reba sound –
‘Over You’ is the sort of tried and true heartbreak ballad Reba fans eat up, but these
The album’s stand-out track is the swampy ‘Maggie Creek Road’.  In this tale of a mother’s love and how she avenges her own
situation and saves her daugher at the same time, Reba rolls out the lines like a folklore missionary.  This is the kind story song
Reba excels best at – stories of sex and violence and revenge and family love in the vein of southern Gothic classics like ‘Fancy’
and ‘The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia’, this Karyn Rochelle and James Slater fits neatly into that category.

For her Valory Music Co. debut, Reba revisits many of the same themes she has sung to us about in the past, at times saying it better than before.  But more often than not, these recycled themes fall short of the songs of their predecessors.  Reba is in fine voice for the entire album.  Her vocal is the one thing I can’t find any complaints about. It’s sassy when it needs to be, tender when the music calls for it, and it aches and burns at just the right moments.  Reba has long been a master at interpreting a lyric, and her years of experience are certainly on display here, even when the songs fail her.

You don’t get to be country music’s biggest female hit-maker without following some sort of formula, and this album showcases Reba’s formula of a couple show-stopping ballads, some up-tempo numbers, and the occasional achingly sad number. Splitting production credits with long-time collaborator Tony Brown and Mark Bright gives the album a fresh sound for sure, but it also tends to create a lack of focus.  The one core element running through nearly every song on Keep On Loving You is that of the strong woman, which Reba has been singing the praises of for the better part of two decades now.  But these strong women are all over the place, from being allegedly heartbroken in the lead single, the rocking ‘Strange’, to being genuinely blue in ‘Over You’ and then on a manhunt in ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’.  There’s certainly no consistency to the instrumentation either, as Reba goes from pop-country to western swing – all ably I might add.

Reba really steps out of the box with the up-tempo numbers on the album more than anything, and these are also the most traditional of the cuts.  Trisha Yearwood recorded ‘Nothing to Lose’ for her Greatest Hits album.  There’s not much difference to the backing tracks each lady used, but here Reba has changed ‘my last cigarette’ to ‘this old paperback’ and she gives a more ferocious vocal, attacking the lyric with a spitfire in her voice.  ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ is a fun western swing number and another smoking vocal that finds the narrator admiring the man out on the dance floor and inquiring where she can find one of her own.

A remixed ‘I Want a Cowboy’ was sent to dance clubs all over America, and with the original’s busy music and young lyrics it should suit that crowd just fine, even if it’s not really my style.  Katrina Elam co-wrote the song, and first recorded it on her 2004 debut.  She also provides harmony vocals here.  A couple of other throw-away tracks pop up with the rousing ‘Pink Guitar’ and its prerequisite Johnny Cash reference. Likewise, ‘Over You’ is the sort of tried and true heartbreak ballad Reba fans eat up, but these are lyrics from the recycling bin again, and the performance is a bit much as she overstates the lyrics as if she had something new to say.

The album’s stand-out track is the swampy ‘Maggie Creek Road’.  In this tale of a mother’s love and how she avenges her own situation and saves her daughter at the same time, Reba rolls out the lines like a folklore missionary.  This is the kind story song Reba excels best at – stories of sex and violence and revenge and family love in the vein of southern Gothic classics like ‘Fancy’ and ‘The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia’ – and this Karyn Rochelle and James Slater number fits neatly into that category.

She heard her baby crying no but he wouldn’t stop
Her heart went cold and her blood ran hot
With a pistol in her hand she opened his door
You don’t wanna see mama go to war

Aside from saucy tales of rural drama, when Reba gets a ballad that’s worthy of her talent, she’s virtually flawless.  Two examples of her mastery are  ‘She’s Turning 50 Today’ and ‘Eight Crazy Hours (In The Story of Love)’.  The first, Reba’s only co-write on the album, tells the story of a woman whose husband has left her.  On her birthday, two days later, she finds herself driving on the interstate with an ‘I’ll be just fine’ attitude, fitting with the album’s strong woman theme.  ‘Eight Crazy Hours’ is a stark look inside the mind of the everyday housewife, and the heartaches she keeps to herself.  After seeking the solitude to break down in a hotel room by herself, she again resumes her responsibilities and gets back to her routine, just like that, and puts all her doubts in the back of her head, because she has to.

It was something as simple as picking up the kids
That brought her back to earth again
She’d been to the dark side of the moon, and she had to keep it to herself

Ronnie Dunn and Terry McBride penned the album’s almost-title track, ‘I Keep On Loving You’, a romantic number that finds the singer telling her man why she will always be there through thick and thin.  It’s one the most sparsely produced and one where Reba doesn’t reach for the ceiling, but still nails every note.

The second single, ‘Consider Me Gone’ has a 90s pop-country feel, classic Reba ‘strong-woman’ theme and all the parts to make a great song, but like some of the other tracks, we’ve heard this all from Reba before in a much better package.  It’s still not without its charms and the chorus houses some memorable lyrics.

Overall, Keep On Loving You is quite a good album.  But Reba is past the point of making merely good albums and should be delivering nothing less than excellent at this point.  And with this release, she has firmly placed her sights on country radio and staying relevant in that market.  Trouble is, in the process, she has given us an album that is more mediocre than masterpiece, with only a few shining moments instead of a start-to-finish classic.

Grade:  B

Watch the music video for ‘Strange’.

Or listen to ‘Consider Me Gone’, ‘Maggie Creek Road’, and ‘She’s Turning 50 Today’.  You can also stream the entire album on Last FM for free.

Keep On Loving You is available at Amazon and everywhere else.

20 responses to “Album Review: Reba McEntire – ‘Keep On Loving You’

  1. Razor X August 18, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I agree that there is a lack of cohesiveness in this album. There seems to have been an attempt to be all things to all people, which usually results in nobody (or very few) being completely satisfied. “I’ll Have What She’s Having” and “Nothing to Lose” are the two best tracks; I also thought the politically-correct lyric change in the latter was interesting. It should be beneath Reba to sing songs like “I Want A Cowboy” and “Pink Guitar.”

  2. Occasional Hope August 18, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I liked Maggie Creek Road, I’ll Have What She’s Having (which reminded me of Reba at her best), the title track and Nothing To Lose. I thought most of the uptempo tracks were over-produced. Definitely not my favourite from Reba, but to be honest I wasn’t really expecting it to be.

  3. Chris August 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Definitely agree. I wasn’t expecting a ton, but there are still some really good songs to be found.

  4. Meg August 18, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Personally, I really enjoy the variety of styles on this one. I agree with J.R. that the “strong woman” theme seems to be the thread that runs through most of the album, but I disagree that the variety of perspectives is problematic. Strong women aren’t necessarily all alike. What defines strength and what gives a woman strength can also be different for different women, and especially at different ages. I love that she’s got everything from a song about a teenager wanting to become a star, to a house wife with kids, to a swinging single, to a jilted 50-yr-old to an angry mamma with a gun on it. It’s a great collage of women who represent various economic, social and generational groups, yet they’re gutsy and trying to make their way. The production and instrumentation on some of them might be more commercial than some would like, but Reba is doing what she’s always done so well — singing about the topics and stories that people (often especially women) can relate to. Not everyone can relate to every song personally, but she certainly gives us insight into that character’s story/perspective.

    Razor’s right that it might come across that she’s trying to be all things to all people. I think she does a fine job of it. I’d love to know the demographic spread on who purchases this one.

    • Caroline August 18, 2009 at 11:54 pm

      Meg – You said just what I wanted to say and much better than I could have said it. I think Reba sounds fabulous and I’m really enjoying the album. I’m a happy camper! 🙂

  5. Joe August 18, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    “I’ll Have What She’s Having” is head and shoulders above the rest. It makes even “Nothing to Lose” sound notably inferior.

    While there are signs of significant creative effort being made in songs like “Just When I Thought…” and “She’s Turning 50 Today” — and yes there are clunkers (“But Why” begs its own question) — the album does fail when overall cohesiveness is considered.

    Maybe someday — perhaps after the entire idea of an “album” has become obsolete — we’ll all consider Reba ahead of her time by throwing such a diverse package together.

  6. Shaun August 19, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Am I the only one that just absolutly loves “Over You?”

    My favorite’s are:

    Consider Me Gone
    Just When I Thought I’d Stopped Loving You
    Over You
    Maggie Creek Road
    Pink Guitar

    And may I point out, some of you may not like some of the “throw away” songs, but Reba isn’t going to record a song that she doesn’t want on her album. Keep in mind that Reba hand picked these songs herself for her album… and I think she did a damn good job picking them!

    • Caroline August 19, 2009 at 8:33 am

      No, you’re not the only one that loves the album. Count me in.

      Thinking over the 200+ songs I have of Reba’s, there aren’t many that I don’t enjoy. A very large chunk of those songs are on the playlist that I play constantly. I think I like her choices in music almost as much as her voice. Perhaps it’s the fact that I really only listen to playlists on shuffle that I’m not getting the criticism of the album being non-cohesive. I’m just loving it. 🙂

      • Michelle Aussie country girl February 10, 2017 at 11:16 pm

        I love this album and I also regularly listen to music on shuffle, so the lack of cohesiveness that others have mentioned isn’t a problem for me.

    • greg August 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm

      I agree with you on Over You. This song is awesome.

      • Razor X August 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm

        I think “Over You” is one of the better tracks on the album. Overall, I wish I could throw out about half the tracks on this album and replace them with something else.

  7. Erik August 19, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I was somewhat disappointed in this album. Too many ‘meh’ tracks (“But Why”, “Over You”, “Pink Guitar” etc.), and not one true killer track like every one of her previous albums has had. I suppose I would’ve been satisfied with it had it been anyone but Reba; I’ve got far too high expectations for her.

  8. Michael August 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Well written review, J.R. You hit the nail on the head when it comes to “Pink Guitar” and “I Want a Cowboy”. I wonder how “Maggie Creek Road” would fare as a single.

  9. Sean August 19, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Great review J.R. To me, this is by far my favorite album by Reba since ‘What If It’s You.’ My favorite songs are:
    Just When I Thought…
    I Keep On Lovin’ You
    She’s Turning 50 Today
    Eight Crazy Hours
    Maggie Creek Road(Without a doubt, the best song!!!!)
    I’ll Have What She’s Having
    Overall, I really like this album, but no matter what songs Reba were to sing and no matter how pop-ish her album could be I would still love it no matter what. I mean, she’s Reba for goodness sakes!! 🙂 I think she did a really good job for this album!

  10. Michael August 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I love this album. It’s one of her best. Absolutely amazing. I love,”Maggie Creek Road”. Everyone should get this album. Reba’s still got it!!!!!!!

  11. J.R. Journey August 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for all the compliments, guys. I like this album a lot more than my review might lead you to believe. I’m just harder on Reba than I would be most artists because I’ve grown to expect so much from her. I hold her up to the highest of standards because she set the standard for me.

    But I also whole-heartedly recommend Keep On Loving You to everybody. There are plenty enough brilliant moments to balance out the few clunkers.

  12. Nicolas August 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I also think “Maggie Creek Road” is the best song =D

    But the rest of the album is also very good, and I think its the best album of the year thus far (although come time for Miranda’s to come out, it will be knocked to second best)

    • Chris August 24, 2009 at 12:08 am

      Hmmm… This album’s okay, but I haven’t listened to it a ton. “Eight Crazy Hours…” was really good though, and “Maggie Creek Road” too. I need to listen to it more. I’ve been preoccupied, haha.

      So far it’s not on my year’s end list, which so far has Neko Case (Not quite country, I know), Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Brad Paisley, to name a few. Miranda Lambert and Patty Loveless have albums coming out that will be serious contenders, that’s for sure.

  13. scott August 24, 2009 at 1:43 am

    This album really shows how Reba can change with the times yet still keep what made her great in the first place. Maggie Creek Road has to be the next single. It would be so cool to see Reba play the mom with the pistol at the end. It would make such an awesome music video. You know what’s amazing is how Reba can outsell most female artist to this day.

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