“Can’t Even Get the Blues”
Written by Rick Carnes and Tom Damphier
#1 (1 week)
January 8, 1983
Reba McEntire has more No. 1 singles than any female country artist in history. This one is her first, and it came in her seventh year as a major label recording artist.
Discovered by Red Steagall while singing the national anthem, McEntire was signed to Mercury Records and released a series of low-charting singles that would eventually be included on her self-titled debut album in 1977. A series of collaborative singles with Jack Ward helped raise her chart profile, and she scored her first top twenty solo hit with a cover of “Sweet Dreams,” which would become a signature live song of hers for many years.
1980 brought her fourth album, Feel the Fire, which produced her first top ten hit – “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven” – as well as two additional top twenty hits. It was her fifth album, Unlimited, that proved her big breakthrough at radio. It launched with the top five hit “I’m Not that Lonely Yet,” which was in her typical ballad style.
Her desire to have more uptempo material for her live shows inspired her to record “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” and the jaunty number became her first chart-topping hit. It’s an early indication of her ability to be theatrical on record, even though she’s still being held back, as her producer told her not to use her distinctive vocal curlicues on record.
The production isn’t up to par with the best of the recent No. 1 singles, but McEntire is such a compelling singer and emotes so effectively that even when she’s being restrained from a fully realized performance, she’s still as good as anyone else on the radio dial. We have to wait until the MCA years to get into her classic singles, but this one is still a winner.
“Can’t Even Get the Blues” gets a B+.
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