There’s a reason that the 31st album released by Reba McEntire — Reba Duets — debuted at No. 1 when it was released last month; it’s really that good.
In this era when duet CDs seem to be as common as too-early Christmas displays, McEntire’s album stands apart. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t succumb to the temptation that other artists have of changing singing styles to suit various partners.
Whether McEntire joins Faith Hill, Don Henley, Justin Timberlake or one of the other artists who contribute to this 11-track CD, her strong, clear vocals shine through with her own pure, southern timbre.
The CD kicks off with a clear winner – “When You Love Someone Like That,” which pairs McEntire with LeAnn Rimes for this soft country song that tells the tale of classic heartbreak:
When you love someone like that
When you give what you can’t take back
When you love
With all your heart and soul
It’s so hard to let it go.
When the two harmonize, magic happens. The accompanying keyboards, steel guitar, and light percussions provide just the background needed to strengthen the lyric’s allure.
McEntire stays in the country/Nashville mode when she joins Ronnie Dunn on “Does the Wind Still Blow In Oklahoma?” If anything, this song, written by McEntire and Dunn, is one of the most "classic" country songs released by McEntire in recent memory.
My favorite song on the disc was “Because of You,” written by McEntire’s duet partner in this performance – Kelly Clarkson. Not only does the song offer a nice pop/country mix, but the two use just the right amount of vocal passion to make the ardent lyrics come alive, but stay out of the cheese zone.
Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt.
My only real quibble with the song is the soaring violins in the background which give it a bit of a melodramatic quality it’d likely do well without. But that’s a minor point when you consider the total song.
I have to agree with some critics who find some of the other songs, such as “Faith in Love” with Rascal Flatts, as perfect for the radio but too – let’s just say poppy/vanilla — to have the real staying power of a hit that stands the test of time. But again, that’s a minor point.
When McEntire joins with Trisha Yearwood on “She Can’t Save Him,” the music comes right back to stellar and it stays there right till the end.
Even those who aren’t Justin Timberlake fans may well enjoy “The Only Promise That Remains.” Frankly, I couldn’t imagine he’d live up to many of the other duet partners on this CD but I was just wrong. Like her duet with Clarkson, a partnership with McEntire seems to pull a whole new, compelling sound from this talented, young artist.
The bottom line is that you can nitpick all day about which song could use that and which could use this. The point is that this album is one of the best duets released in years.
It’s great to have Reba McEntire back recording. Let’s hope she doesn’t make us wait years until we hear from her again.