My Kind of Country

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

New singles roundup: Reba, Jackson, McBride

Reba McEntire – “Somebody’s Chelsea”     Listen.

Romantic themes have never played a big part in Reba’s catalog probably because she simply doesn’t sing them well.  At the bottom of every great Reba single, there’s a hint of sadness or desperation, provided by the natural ache the singer accomplishes just by opening her mouth and bending a few seemingly irrelevant notes.  With that, she has the ability to bring most any song to life, save for her attempts at love songs. That damns her latest single right away, with its plucking mandolin and piano intro and a swaying chorus built for the slow dance portion of the next wedding reception you attend.  Her attempts to meander sweetly through the verses come off as more rehearsal run-throughs than finished product. The story revolves around the narrator’s encountering an elderly widower on a plane.  After hearing of that couple’s love story and seeing the man’s continuing love for his departed, she simply closes her eyes and daydreams of a love of her own. McEntire co-wrote the song with Liz Hengber and Will Robinson, and I have to wonder how three songwriters couldn’t find something more meaningful to say.  She’s one of the best honky-tonk, swing, and heartbreak singers in the business, who has no business squandering her talents on fluff like this.

Grade: C-

Alan Jackson – “Long Way To Go”     Listen.

Songs about drinking away your troubles, be they love or money-related, with the beach as your background has been fertile subject matter for country’s leading male artists even before Kenny Chesney made a career out of them. With his first single release for new-label home Capitol, Alan Jackson adds another to the long list. As with nearly everything Jackson does, he pulls this off so damn capably, it’s hard to fault him even for overused concepts.  “Long Way To Go” follows the same sound format as past Jackson hits “Chattahoochee” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, with their blistering electric guitars mixed right beside a heaping helping of fiddle and peppered with the singer’s signature “yee haws”.  Even the unrelenting rain showers, bug in his margarita and encountering another poor soul in the same predicament doesn’t seem to damper the singer’s spirits as he pours on his best feel-good vocal here.  With this single, Jackson is not hitting the ground running with his new label release, nor does it sound like he’s altered his sound or style at all. And that’s okay by me.

Grade: B

Martina McBride – “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”     Listen.

Two singles into her personally-praised upcoming album for Republic Nashville, the singer with the big voice, all those orchestrations behind her, and a penchant for singing topical songs to tug at someone’s heartstrings is back. The story of a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer is told.  She is personified by the added details of her life – she’s 38, has 3 kids. The track is led by plentiful strings and drums, and there’s even a short steel guitar solo in the bridge.  McBride hits all the right notes, and takes the listener as high as humanly possible with her blue-in-the-face belting (if he’s still paying attention by the end).  It was in a different package – usually domestic violence –  but we’ve heard all these notes before, and even with its gravely universal message, it’s nothing more than a new step to the same old dance. Fans hoping McBride would return to the hard-hitting neo-traditionalism of “A Broken Wing” or “Cry On The Shoulder Of The Road” will be disappointed.  Likewise, those who really dig the “Concrete Angel”, “God’s Will” side of the singer’s catalog should be very pleased.  Count me among the disappointed.

Grade: C


24 responses to “New singles roundup: Reba, Jackson, McBride

  1. Ben Foster July 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I pretty much agree on all of these. I actually like the way “Somebody’s Chelsea” sounds with the arrangement and performance – It’s just that it’s such a lame song. I still don’t like the “bug in my margarita” line in “Long Way to Go,” but it has a cool 90’s-esque sound to it that might help it catch me in the right mood every now and then.

    As for McBride, I actually think I could have enjoyed “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” if it weren’t for that stupid power ballad treatment. Despite the heartstring-tugging, I do like how the lyrics have some specificity that helps give some color to the story, but the sweeping string arrangement and glory-note belting just elicits a big “Oh no, not THAT again” from me. Though “Teenage Daughters” got me pretty excited about Martina’s new album, I’m disappointed with the new single, and hoping that it doesn’t set the tone for the album as a whole.

  2. travis on va July 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Poor Reba. The record label is picking the worst singles off her All The Woman I Am Album. they should have released Cry and The Bridge You Burn rather than the last two singles.

  3. p.e.f. July 29, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “Somebody’s Chelsea” strikes me as a possible classic for Reba…
    and it must be summer, when critics and certain fans alike, favor nothing but up-tempo diddley’s to smack back another cold one. This new single drives at more lasting content, finds it, and I suspect the culture will bear this out. Come winter maybe, when the beer bottles are back at the recycling plant, and folks come back inside themselves and ready for a little reflection. “Somebody’s Chelsea” will perfectly accomodate.

    • travis on va July 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      I hope your right but this single choice worries me.

      • p.e.f. July 30, 2011 at 1:32 am

        I think Reba really carves out the story well…
        and find the content significant. J.R. Journey’s analysis of content is…. amusing.

        This would have been my first choice for a single release – I’ll be watching it.

  4. Jonathan Pappalardo July 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I still think “The Day She Got Divorced” should’ve been the new single. It has a classic Reba feel, and sounds good from a singer at any age. Plus, it isn’t like Reba is playing the main character in the song, even though she’s been divorced once before. And the vocal is outstanding.

    As for “Somebody’s Chelsea,” I have to listen to it again in the new light everyone’s been putting on it this week. I remember thinking it wasn’t that bad when I heard it last year when I bought the album.

    As far as Alan Jackson’s single goes, it doesn’t matter how country he keeps his production, he just isn’t exciting anymore. He hasn’t done anything truly outstanding in years and his voice has aged in a way that doesn’t sit well with me. The only time in recent memory he’s done anything worthy of his legacy was “As She’s Walking Away.” He sounded so good on that song, but it doesn’t translate well to his recent albums. I’m going to go back and listen to his early singles and career records and pretend he isn’t recording such filler material today. It looks as though I’m going to have to pass on this new album, too.

    And for Martina’s new one, I’ve yet to fully get on board. I read such rave early reviews of the song and was hoping for so much more. And as I’ve said before, I keep hoping for so much more from her and not getting it. The only exception was “Teenage Daughters.” I love that song!

    • J.R. Journey July 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      “Divorced” is my favorite Reba recording since “Sweet Music Man”, but I have to doubt its radio appeal. Personally, I think “Cry” would have been the better choice – tried and true Reba theme, strong performance and an all-around winner.

  5. travis on va July 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I disagree Razor X, I find the album enjoyable. Would rather listen to it than Taylor or Carrie’s last albums.

  6. luckyoldsun July 30, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I have no idea what the reveiewer is talking about–as far as McEntire’s song being fluff.
    Between the two of them, the Jackson song ranks higher on the fluff meter. It’s simply a by-the-numbers song that says absolutely nothing. It’s basically “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” without Jimmy Buffet.

    • Razor X July 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

      The Jackson song is fluff — which wouldn’t bother me so much because it’s a summer release. The problem is that he’s done it before and done it better. It’s not a bad song pe se, but it isn’t bringing anything new to the table. As you said, “Five O’Clock Somewhere” without Jimmy Buffett. Hopefully the rest of the album will be better.

      I also tend to agree with you about Reba’s single not being fluff. I think the main problem with this one is the production, which is too MOR and boring. This one sort of reminds me of Kenny Chesney’s “The Good Stuff” in that it attempts to convey the same message but does so a lot less effectively. We get that the old man loved Chelsea but we don’t come away from the song knowing what it was exactly that made her so special.

      The McBride single is just a shameless attempt to manipulate the listener’s emotions. Nothing subtle about it at all. Like Jackson, she’s not bringing anything new to the table. She’s done this sort of song before, and enough is enough. It’s like those disease of the week movies that used to air on network TV; when an entertainer attempts to emotionally drain his or her audience too many times, eventually the audience becomes conditioned to it and it ceases to be effective.

  7. bob July 30, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I agree with the reviews on the Martina and Reba songs but AJ’s is also pretty bad, not worthy of a B. JPap nailed it when he said that “The only time in recent memory he’s done anything worthy of his legacy was “As She’s Walking Away.” He sounded so good on that song”.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo July 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks, Bob! I can only call it like I see it (or in this case, hear it)

      • Leeann August 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        I must disagree that Jackson’s voice has aged badly. It still sounds clear and great to me, especially compared to Randy Travis’ worn voice. His new song isn’t good, but the Freight Train album was quite good, though the singles weren’t the strongest. I guess I just think a weak Alan Jackson song is always better than a “strong” Aldean/Atkins/owens/Bryan/Church/Shelton/most other current male singers’ songs.

        • Jonathan Pappalardo August 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

          Compared to Randy Travis, any male country singer still sounds good. I just don’t care for how Alan’s voice has deepened. I liked how his voice sounded on his early records better than I do now.

          But you’re right, as compared to the artists you mentioned, a weak Alan Jackson song is often better than their’s. But I disagree with Eric Church. Aside from “Homeboy,” I really like his singles catalog.

  8. J.R. Journey July 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I call the Reba song fluff because it’s just another run of the mill “I wanna find true love” song, and a boring one at that. And I still think she’s out of her league taking on romantic themes. The few times they have worked for her (“The Heart Won’t Lie”, “Till You Love Me”), the song had a tinge of sadness running through it that allowed her to do what she does best – convey heartbreak. As far as finding-love songs go, her 2004 #1 “Somebody” was much better than this, mostly because of the punchier production and again, the anguish of the characters in the song. “Chelsea” was boring to me last Winter when I first heard the album. I don’t think another change of seasons will redeem it.

    With Alan Jackson, he’s always been hit and miss for me, especially with his up-tempos. But he still casts an air of believability few others can. And I’ve tended to forgive him for more because of it. The song is nothing special, yet Jackson can pull it off.

    And I’m with Razor that the Martina song is one of the worst of her career. I’m sure there will be people who are very affected by it – those who’ve lived similar situations – but she’s in the same boat as Reba at this point in needing hard-hitting singles that aren’t polarizing or pandering. And this is a whole lot of both.

    • luckyoldsun July 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      I don’t know what you’re expecting or demanding that Reba do in a record–split the atom, cure world hunger, solve the debt ceiling issue??–but this song seems to be a pretty good one, and it she sings it well.

    • J.R. Journey July 31, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      I don’t expect anything near as lofty as that from Reba – though she’s come close before, and could again – or any other artist. I would disagree with you about the song being “pretty good” though. It’s not at all engaging or memorable, and I don’t think she sings it very well. I am usually on board with her ballads, but this one is just a big yawn.

    • Leeann August 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Oh yes, I’m very disappointed by the McBride single. I hoped for more after enjoying “Teenage Daughters.” I have no intention of listening to this one again.

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