Keep on Loving You is contemporary country legend Reba McEntire's debut recording on the semi-independent Valory Music Company label's Starstruck imprint. It's her first new studio outing since her comeback effort, Duets, and her mammoth triple-disc hits package that fulfilled her contract to MCA Nashville, her label home for nearly 20 years. Despite its release on an indie, the production and approach are anything but, with the album being produced by Tony Brown and Mark Bright. The cream of country music's current chart crop wrote its 13 songs; it is certainly a radio-friendly collection that is supposed to showcase McEntire's adaptability and that she's still "got it," and can still score in the contemporary marketplace. There's no doubt that will happen, from the title track, a midtempo ballad that is saturated in compressed guitars and Hammond B-3, big repetitive choruses, and a chorus of fiddles and backing vocals. McEntire's voice hasn't lost even a touch of its range and power; she's a belter who can hang with the best of them.
The set opener (and its first single), "Strange," with its acoustic guitars, mandolin, and fiddle intros, is like something from the backyard until about 20 seconds in, when a wall of guitars à la John Rich arrives and her vocal spits out lyrics that tell of a woman who feels strange that she should be wrecked after a love affair, but she's fine. It feels more like Gretchen Wilson than Reba McEntire. "I Want a Cowboy" and "Pink Guitar" sound more like McEntire is being backed by the Charlie Daniels Band circa 1979 than her own touring unit. "She's Turning 50 Today" is a trademark McEntire-delivered ballad about a woman who has been abandoned by her husband and decides to leave the wreckage of her life behind. It's the kind of bittersweet power ballad that the singer is famous for, and is delivered with characteristic aplomb even as the production behind her tries its hardest to get in the way. The bottom line here is that Keep on Loving You may jar some longtime Reba fans on first listen, but despite the record's sound it's all her in this mix, and they will more than likely celebrate this.
As far as the new fans this set clearly hopes to gain, it's got the right elements; if country music's finicky youth-obsessed radio and video machine can hear this set for what it is, listeners will connect in droves.
|Strange / Wendell Mobley / Jason Sellers / Neil Thrasher||Reba McEntire||3:00|
|Just When I Thought I'd Stopped Loving You / Mark Nesler / Rivers Rutherford||Reba McEntire||3:50|
|I Keep on Lovin' You||Reba McEntire||3:13|
|I Want a Cowboy / Katrina Elam / Wayne Kirkpatrick / Jimmie Lee Sloas||Reba McEntire||3:39|
|Consider Me Gone / Steve Diamond / Marv Green||Reba McEntire||3:38|
|But Why / Jason Sellers / Neil Thrasher||Reba McEntire||3:28|
|Pink Guitar / Ed Hill / Jamie O'Neal / Shaye Smith||Reba McEntire||2:53|
|She's Turning 50 Today / Liz Hengber / Tommy Lee James / Reba McEntire||Reba McEntire||4:05|
|Eight Crazy Hours (In the Story of Love) / Leslie Satcher / Darrell Scott||Reba McEntire||4:04|
|Nothing to Lose / Kim Fox||Reba McEntire||4:47|
|Over You / Michael Dulaney / Jason Sellers||Reba McEntire||3:56|
|Maggie Creek Road / James Slater||Reba McEntire||4:50|
|I'll Have What She's Having / Jimmy Melton / Georgia Middleman||Reba McEntire||2:59|
|Consider Me Gone [From CMT Invitation Only]||Reba McEntire|