This is the strongest album Reba McEntire has released in more than twenty years.
Listening to Love Somebody is hearing a legend of the genre rediscover her own voice. She’s always been an excellent singer, but after making her name as both a heartbreak queen and the common folk’s Everywoman, she had tremendous difficulty navigating the post-Shania Twain landscape of female empowerment anthems.
After so many albums where she sounded like she was playing catch-up with younger artists who never had the talent to match her in the first place, she’s gone back to doing what she’s always done best. Love Somebody tells the tales of real women, sometimes in the first and sometimes in the third person, always with the perfect balance of grit and vulnerability.
The woman in the Brandy Clark co-write “She Got Drunk Last Night” is giving in one more time to an old flame, because she’s “tired of feeling old” and can’t face returning home alone.”I’ll Go On” finds her heartbroken, but determined to survive without bitterness or anger at the man who doesn’t love her the way that she loves him. “Enough”, which is a powerful duet with Jennifer Nettles, has her stuck between the realization that the man isn’t good enough for her, but not being ready yet to completely leave him behind.
Even the uptempo tracks are mature and nuanced, and her life experience makes “Living Ain’t Killed Me Yet” and the title track resonate with the wisdom that comes with time. The production is wisely sparse, showcasing her vocals with minimal intrusion. Even when it occasionally seems that things are about to get too busy, like on “Until They Don’t Love You”, the bells and whistles are kept in check, and McEntire never loses control.
McEntire’s own legacy always overshadows her newest work, but Love Somebody features a handful of tracks worthy of inclusion among her finest recorded moments. In addition to the previously mentioned “She Got Drunk Last Night” and “I’ll Go On”, her cover of “Love Land”, previously recorded by Martina McBride, elevates the already compelling composition into “My Elusive Dreams” territory through her passionate performance. “Just Like Them Horses” is absolutely gut-wrenching, a four-hanky weeper about a woman letting go of her dying husband. It’s her finest ballad she’s recorded since the ones that made up the core of For My Broken Heart.
For those that can hunt down the Target or International Edition, you’ll get two additional tracks co-written by Brandy Clark, and they are both good enough to stand with the rest of the album, with “More Than Her Last Name” capturing the claustrophobia of the modern housewife better than anything she’s recorded since “Is There Life Out There.”
Reba’s been doing this for so long that she has fans from all generations and with a wide range of stylistic preferences. If you believe, as I do, that For My Broken Heart is one of the best country albums ever released and that Rumor Has It is nearly as good, this is the Reba album you’ve been waiting for. Buy it now.
Best Tracks: “Just Like Them Horses”, “She Got Drunk Last Night”, “I’ll Go On”, “Love Land”