Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn spent 1997 on tour together as co-headliners. One night Reba would open for Brooks & Dunn and the next night they’d switch. At the end of that tour, Reba and Ronnie Dunn would perform ‘You Don’t Know Me’ as a duet before being joined onstage by Kix Brooks for a song I think was called ‘Cotton Fields’. But Reba and Ronnie’s take on the Cindy Walker classic was really the highlight of the evening. Between them, they possess two of the finest voices in modern country music. But that 1997 tour was supposed to be a one time deal, and besides, Ronnie Dunn already had a duet partner at the time.
In early 1998, both acts were working on new albums. Reba and Kix Brooks both heard a song called ‘If You See Him’ (which I guess would become ‘If You See Her’ for the duo) and put it on hold, unbeknownst to each other. When they found out what happened, they decided to do the song a duet between the two acts, becoming a sort of trio at the end. Recording that duet set the wheels in motion for another national tour pairing between the redhead and the pair of cowpokes, plus it set the stage for a really innovative cross-label promotion of the albums that would contain the song, now titled ‘If You See Him, If You See Her’.
On June 2, Reba’s album If You See Him and Brooks and Dunn’s own If You See Her would be released. Meanwhile, Reba and Brooks & Dunn hit the road, taking Terri Clark and David Kersh along this year. The single shot to the top of the country singles chart and stayed there for 2 weeks. If You See Him quickly went gold and then platinum. Three other singles hit the top 10, and the disc itself debuted at #2 on the albums chart – while the Hope Floats soundtrack had a solid lock on the top spot. For those interested, Brooks & Dunn’s If You See Her bowed at the #4 position the same week.
‘If You See Him, If You See Her’, with its adult contemporary fare is much more akin to the songs on Reba’s album and in her catalog than Brooks & Dunn’s. The story of two former lovers confiding in a mutual friend about how they still love each other is well-written, and the addition of Kix Brooks at the end on harmony makes for a very pleasant and interesting listen. Meanwhile, Reba and Ronnie Dunn turn in killer vocal performances, though it’s obvious they recorded the song in Ronnie Dunn’s key rather than Reba’s as her acrobatics sound like they were more of a chore than usual.
The second single, ‘Foever Love’ was used as the basis for a CBS made-for-TV of the same name movie about a woman who awakens from a 20-year coma to world she doesn’t quite understand. The song itself is a big performance and declaration of undying love that went to #4 on the country singles chart. While not specifially written to tie in the with script of the movie, the lyrics fit the story of Lizzie and Alex Brooks quite well. The album’s closing song, the romantic ‘All This Time’ was also used in the movie.
‘Wrong Night’, with its hard-driving drums and fiddle-laden verses doesn’t quite sound like it fits the rest of the album, but was another top 10 hit for Reba, settling in at #6 on the charts, but becoming largely forgotten after its initial chart run. The snappy ‘One Honest Heart’ followed it at country radio and peaked one spot lower at #7. This pop-influenced track find the narrator searching for true love and listing the things she wants in the chorus – ‘one honest heart I can believe in, two loving arms that will never let me go’, etc. It’s a catchy tune, but one I never could latch on to.
The brilliant ‘Lonely Alone’, written by Reese Wilson, was released outside the U.S. as a single in countries like Australia, Brazil, and the U.K. among others. It’s one of Reba’s best moments vocally and a personal favorite of mine. The cunning and powerful ‘Up and Flying’ is another personal favorite. It’s the story of a woman who’s still trying to get her dreams off the ground while she watches her ex take to the skies with his own.
A sort of sequel to ‘Does He Love You’ appears here too with ‘Face to Face’, a duet with Linda Davis. The tale of two women who’ve been seeing the same man confronting each other is a littel more snappy than its predecessor. I was surprised this wasn’t released as a single, especially since the first was such a success and it would have made for a neat answer song.
A couple classic Reba themes, in ballad form as usual, appear here with ‘I Wouldn’t Know’ and ‘Heart Hush’. The similar themes of revisiting a lost love, one with questions from friends and the other from an actual encounter, are nice additions to an already great album. Though it’s not without a few clunkers, at least in my opinion. And forturnately, they come in succession to it’s easy to skip them both. ‘I’ll Give You Something To Miss’ sounds like something written for Jessica Andrews at the time, and the somber ‘Invisible’, about a woman who’s husband is ignoring her has been done better by Reba, and several others – Patty Loveless’s ‘You Don’t Even Know Who I Am’ comes to mind.
Like all of Reba’s albums from 1986 to the present, this was another platinum album for the redhead, though it didn’t sell quite as well its double and triple-platinum predessors and for me marked the end of the golden era of Reba’s catalog so far since she didn’t capture this kind of magic between her voice and the material with her next release and then she went off to conquer Broadway and television, leaving her music career behind for the better part of this decade. If You See Him is my personal favorite Reba McEntire album, mostly because of the song selection. In the liner notes, she talks about being laid up with a broken leg, and having tons of free time to devote to picking the songs. I think it shows.
If You See Him is still widely available, and at Amazon.