My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘Just Like Them Horses’

MTE1ODA0OTcxODM2MTQ3MjEzThere is no question that Reba McEntire is one of country music’s all-time greatest talents, but for at least the last decade and a half, she’s made musical choices that have ranged from questionable to downright terrible. Her latest album album Love Somebody falls into the latter category, although it does contain two decent tracks, one of which has just been released as her latest single.

“Just Like Them Horses” finds Reba revisiting her musical roots — sort of. No, it’s not a return to the traditional honky-tonk and Western swing that earned her the respect of critics, peers and fans back in the 80s, but it is in the vein of the pop-tinged ballads that worked so well for her in the early 90s, before she set her sights on mainstream pop superstardom. It was written by Liz Hengber and Tommy Lee James, the pair that wrote her 1995 hit “And Still”. Separately the pair wrote or co-wrote many more McEntire hits, including “It Don’t Matter”, “If You See Him, If You See Her”, “For My Broken Heart”, “It’s Your Call” and “Forever Love”. The piano-led ballad was produced by Reba and Tony Brown, and tells the poignant story of someone saying goodbye to a dying loved one — perhaps a husband or father. Twenty years ago some might have complained that it was too pop, but in the current radio environment it is a shining example of what country music (and Reba McEntire) needs to get back to — audible fiddle and steel, and substantive lyrics that are beautifully sung.

Radio has been cool towards Reba lately, perhaps due to ageism or a lack of interest in female artists in general. Or perhaps because what she’s sent to them lately hasn’t been anything to get excited about. If radio gives this record a fair chance, I believe it will do well because I feel there is still an audience for this type of song. And if it does succeed, perhaps Reba will help turn the tide at country radio, similar to the way she did 30 years ago.

Grade: A

8 responses to “Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘Just Like Them Horses’

  1. luckyoldsun January 7, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    ” If radio gives this record a fair chance, I believe it will do well because I feel there is still an audience for this type of song. ”

    There may be an audience for this type of song–and this type of singer–but that audience is not listening to country radio–or of interest to anyone who advertises on country radio.
    Reba McEntire is 60. There has never been a time in history where 60-year-old women (or men, for that matter, except for a rare one-shot) were scoring hits on country radio. When Tammy was Standing by “Her Man” and Loretta was going to “Fist City,” radio was not playing the latest records from Kitty Wells. And when Reba was a “New Fool” in “New England” and “Little Rock,” she was not facing any competition from Tammy and Loretta. Radio stations are not going to play a new single from a woman who ‘s the favorite artist of their target listeners’ grandmothers.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo January 8, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      Kenny Rogers was 61 when “Buy Me A Rose” topped the charts in 2000. Other than that, the statistics don’t lie. Reba may have Scott Borchetta on her side, but that hasn’t proven fruitful for everyone on his label group.

      Reba originally performed “Just Like Them Horses” at her father’s funeral before recording it for her latest album. The palpable emotion she felt was driven by personal experience. This has a fine chance of aging well, too, unlike the masterful songs on From My Broken Heart. She had exceptional material there, but “If I Had Only Known” has some of the most dated production techniques of any song she’s ever recorded.

      I didn’t realize this was the same pair behind “And Still.” That remains one of my all-time favorite Reba recordings. That is how you write a complete song, a foreign art it seems today.

      • luckyoldsun January 8, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Kenny hit with “Buy Me A Rose”–and before that, Hank Snow with “Hello Love” in 1974, when he was 60. That’s about it. Other than that, older artists only seem to get played if they’re piggy-backing on a hot current artist in a duet–like Willie with Toby in “Beer For My Horses.”
        And not to be sexist, but just to be realistic, it’s a lot different–and worse–for older women than for older men.

        • Razor X January 8, 2016 at 3:34 pm

          It is worse for women but Reba is not an artist from the far distant past, so I think there is still an outside chance that the record will get some airplay. It’s a long shot, but not outside the realm of possibilities. It’s not like we’re expecting them to play anything from the new Loretta Lynn album. She — not Reba — is the “favorite artist of radio’s target listeners’ grandmothers.”

    • Paul W Dennis January 8, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      Almost right, although Kitty Wells was getting decent airplay through 1966 (when she turned 47), then very little after that

      Jean Shepard didn’t receive much airplay after 1975, when she turned 42. Tammy Wynette’s last top ten single was in 1985 when she was 43. Loretta Lynn’s last top ten came in 1982 at the age of 48. Only Reba and Dolly Parton have managed some scattered (sometimes very scattered) hits after turning fifty

      • luckyoldsun January 10, 2016 at 1:54 am

        Dolly has a campy personality, laughing at herself and the entertainment business–i.e. “It costs a lot of money to look this trashy”–and that seems to be one thing that helps extend some artists’ or actors’ shelf lives. (Like with William Shatner and Adam West.)
        Even Kenny Rogers, has been known to spoof himself and “The Gambler”–on the David Letterman show some years ago and on a current GEICO commercial.
        I don’t think that’s going to get Dolly and airplay, but I’m sure it helps her with TV appearances and commercial opportunities.

  2. luckyoldsun January 8, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Time, unfortunately, has been moving on.
    Loretta could be the great-grandmother of today’s target listener.

  3. Paul W Dennis January 8, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    I like the lyrics better than the actual sound of this song which isn’t very country at all. The fiddle sounds Celtic rather than country and frankly the piano … I could hear the Carpenters doing this number

    I would give it a C+

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