My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘I Keep On Lovin’ You’

The title track and third single from Reba’s comeback album has a lot to live up to, as the follow-up to her latest #1 hit. I admit I never expected radio to be as receptive to Reba after such a long layoff as it has proved to be, but it looks as if the concessions Reba and her producer made to contemporary tastes have paid off handsomely in commercial terms. Two uptempo numbers have given her airplay, and now she changes the pace by showing off her interpretative ability to a new radio generation on a ballad. To say this song provided one of the better moments on Keep On Loving You may come close to damning it with faint praise because I was disappointed by that album as a whole. The release of this as a single gives me a chance to reassess it on its own merits.

Written by Ronnie Dunn with his regular songwriting partner Terry McBride, the song bears many of the hallmarks of a Brooks & Dunn ballad and I can imagine Ronnie singing it himself. The tune is very pretty, and help to lift a first verse which offers a few platitudes about having faith. The lyrics of the central part of the song, however, are genuinely interesting, offering an unusually mature attitude about a longterm relationship which has endured its share of ups and downs. The protagonist is almost obstinate in the way she is holding on to love through fights, repeated (probably broken) promises, and pleas for forgiveness:

Sometimes I swear it might be easier to throw in the towel
Someday we’re gonna look back and say look at us now
That’s why I keep on lovin’ you

It is not a romantic picture, but it does feel very real. I do wonder how younger listeners with a more idealistic image of love may respond to it. On the whole, then, this is a very good song.

Reba’s version opens very nicely indeed, with some subdued steel and an effectively restrained, reflective vocal in the first two verses and first run-though of the chorus. I really enjoy listening to the first half of the song. Unfortunately the production builds into a big ballad with heavy production as the song progresses, and some totally unnecessary electric guitar rises way too high in the mix from the second chorus (exactly halfway through the song) onward. I think perhaps this may be intended to indicate triumphing against the odds, but that is not really borne out in the lyric. Reba’s voice (still one of the best in country music) is strong enough not to be completely overpowered, but in order to do this comes close to oversinging at times, particularly in some of the repeats of the title line. Furthermore, the build from the first half of the song to the second does not really sound organic, making this feel somewhat disjointed – as though Reba is trying to appeal to two bases simultaneously.

While the lyric is mature and definitely grown up, the production of the second half is clearly aimed at the mainstream sound on today’s country radio. It should follow ‘Consider Me Gone’ to the upper echelons of the chart. The coincidence of almost sharing a title with a song currently on the charts, labelmates Steel Magnolia’s top 30 hit ‘Keep On Lovin’ You’, is unlikely to harm the chances of Reba’s offering. The songs are dissimilar enough that there is no risk of confusion between them, and not only is Reba a much bigger name and on a hot streak at the moment, but this is a better song. While the production is flawed, this will not hurt it at radio.

Grade: B

8 responses to “Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘I Keep On Lovin’ You’

  1. Razor X February 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    This is definitely one of the best songs on Reba’s album, though like you said, the album itself is very uneven. I can definitely imagine Brooks & Dunn singing this one. I agree that there are some production flaws, but the song itself is strong enough, I’m not terribly bothered by them.

  2. Tom February 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    …what are the production flaws? i just hear a song that can make it all the way to the top of the charts. reba sounds like reba in top-form, modern and not afraid of steel-guitars like some of new kids in town. the lead-guitar solo that launches her into full swing – just wow.

    • Occasional Hope February 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      That very electric guitar you like, is overpowering to me and feels inappropriate for the song. But I quite agree she should have a hit with it, although I’m not sure if it will be another #1.

  3. Trevor February 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    The electric guitar is not overpowering-I couldn;t disagree more. It moves into the crescendo of the song perfectly.
    Now take songs by Carrie Underwood-everything is over produced and over sung. Sometimes less is more but not the case with I keep on Lovin you. This is one of my favs of the fabulous Reba.

  4. Tom February 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    @ occasional hope

    …perhaps i listened too much to dwight yoakam (pete anderson) in my life but i can’t help it – i just love the way a lead guitar can sound in the right hands. the one in this song is excellent and nicely timed.

  5. Cam Smith May 13, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    This is doing fairly well on the charts. It’s at number 15 in the US and 20 in Canada. The third top 15 from the album. The song slowly grows on you as it is slowly moving up the charts. She really is incredible to be having hits so many years down the road, where most of her contemporaries have vanished from radio – George Strait and Alan Jackson being the exceptions. Reba also came around before either of these guys so way to go!

  6. Ben Foster July 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I generally dislike electric guitar solos in “country” songs. I would prefer a fiddle or pedal steel anyway. But in some cases, the song as a whole is good enough for me to forgive it, as is the case here, though it definitely wasn’t necessary. I have heard plenty of guitar solos that were MUCH worse, most of them from Rascal Flatts songs.

    I’m pleased to see that Reba has been able to make a successful comeback on country radio, even though her music is not quite as great as it once was.

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