Album Review: Reba McEntire – All the Women I Am

Blake Boldt | November 11th, 2010 Email Share

Reba McEntire - All the Women I AmThe lack of dramatics on today’s playlists have threatened to turn country radio into a complete yawn. Enter, stage left: one of the genre’s most talented ambassadors, Reba McEntire, who can deliver a masterful vocal performance like few others in the format. With a stunning string of 59 Top 10 singles, McEntire’s astonishing consistency is a tribute to her knowledge of the heart. She sings from a female perspective, always mindful of their struggles with ex-lovers and lowly jobs, all the while willing to offer a sage bit of advice with her warm alto. Her albums–All the Women I Am is the multimedia icon’s 34th studio release–have almost all contained their share of filler, but there are rewards for those who can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Women suffers from a couple of major missteps. “Turn on the Radio,” with its chunky rhythms and a cacophony of female background singers, clashes against McEntire’s curling drawl, while her twanged-up version of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” proves that even a musical legend doesn’t land every punch. The effort to lend a modern edge to her music and stretch beyond her traditional country roots has often yielded poor results for the timeless performer.

When she’s gifted with a great song, the fiery redhead is amply qualified for the task. The title track is an autobiographical account that attempts to define McEntire’s split personae–country bumpkin and city diva–while honoring her faithful fans: “I’m a daughter of the red dirt, Okie dust still in my bones/But I can light up New York City with my red hair and rhinestones.” She tries on many hats here–scorned lover, trusted friend, feisty career woman–but the best song might be Tom Douglas’ “When You Love a Child,” a tender ballad where she revels in the role she cherishes most: mother.

Women is a crash course in dealing with emotional hurdles. There’s a great deal of value when McEntire sings about volatile emotions, and she builds a rapport with female listeners by admitting her own frailties.

That’s most clear on the country weeper “Cry,” where McEntire moves forward in the midst of a bad breakup (“I’m not gonna cry, not one single drop.”). She’s consistently portrayed herself as a trusted confidant, and her listeners seem to draw lessons from her mistakes. On “Bridge You Burn,” a toe-tapping scorcher heavy on fiddle and banjo, McEntire explains patiently to her best friend that an old flame is best left in the past. And, as a gently-plucked guitar highlights the tension of the moment, she sings sympathetically about a depressed, middle-aged woman on “The Day She Got Divorced.”

To top it off, McEntire offers her own composition to the album, “Somebody’s Chelsea,” a song extolling the power of unconditional love that she wrote with Liz Hengber and Will Robinson.

For the fairer sex, it’s not been a banner year on the airwaves: only four solo women have earned Top 10 hits this calendar year. Driven by a renewed desire to stay relevant on Music Row, McEntire has once again balanced her more commercial instincts with a real knack for picking quality songs.

3.5 Stars

  1. Ben Foster
    November 11, 2010 at 7:17 am Permalink

    This album has some good songs on it. I actually liked Reba’s version of “If I Were a Boy.” I thought she delivered it well, and I liked the trills of steel guitar.

  2. Stormy
    November 11, 2010 at 9:33 am Permalink

    If we must do a top 40 song on a country album can someone cover Rhianna’s Unfaithful?

  3. Razor X
    November 11, 2010 at 10:11 am Permalink

    The lack of dramatics on today’s playlists have threatened to turn country radio into a complete yawn

    I don’t see what anything on this album does to counterbalance that. I found it rather lackluster and dull from start to finish. I agree that “When You Have A Child” is the best song in the set. This is a more cohesive album than Reba’s last effort, and the production is surprisingly restrained on the ballads, but most of the songs are just not that interesting.

  4. J.R. Journey
    November 11, 2010 at 10:58 am Permalink

    ‘When You Have A Child’ was a real snoozer for me, but I seem to be in the minority on that. I liked her take on ‘If I Were A Boy’ too, Choice tracks for me include ‘Cry’, ‘The Day She Got Divorced’ (the best Reba track in ages IMO), and the title track.

  5. Travis
    November 11, 2010 at 11:04 am Permalink

    I love this CD. My favs so far are: Cry, A Little Want To, All the Women I am, If I Were A Boy
    Way to go Reba!! I’ve listened to this CD several x’s now and it just keeps getting better.

  6. Jonathan
    November 11, 2010 at 11:20 am Permalink

    I have to say this is one of my favorite albums from her in a long time. She did pick and or co-write some great songs, especially “The Day She Got Divorced” and “Somebody’s Chelsea.”

    There is a lot of potential for huge hits which is great to see. I just wish she had found another song with the production style of “Consider Me Gone.” That track grabbed me right away.

    Another solid album from Reba!

  7. Rick
    November 11, 2010 at 11:39 am Permalink

    If Reba wears the right outfits, she can become the Lady GaGa of country music! Or is it the Beyonce of country music? I get so confused…

  8. Code
    November 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm Permalink

    This is a fantastic review, its a really good album, i think somebody’s chelsea and the bridge you burn are really the highlights of the album

  9. Bernie
    November 12, 2010 at 6:52 am Permalink

    Love this Reba album — favorites are “When Love Gets A Hold Of You,” “A Little Want To,” and “Somebody’s Chelsea.” I hope all three of these songs are released as radio singles. Way to go, Reba — pretty sure we’re going to be hearing a lot of your songs on country radio from this album! Yee-haw!

  10. Trish
    November 12, 2010 at 8:57 am Permalink

    I am really disappointed in this album. I would hardly call it country and would more categorize it as pop. I used to love Reba but the final straw was at the CMA awards a couple days ago when she sang the Beyonce song If I Was a Boy What is up with that and how can yo have a brand new album hitting the stores and not even play one of your own songs? Even worse she does a Beyonce song!

  11. Troy
    November 12, 2010 at 9:15 am Permalink

    ” I would hardly call it country and would more categorize it as pop. I used to love Reba but the final straw was at the CMA awards a couple days ago when she sang the Beyonce song If I Was a Boy What is up with that and how can yo have a brand new album hitting the stores and not even play one of your own songs? Even worse she does a Beyonce song!”

    Did Whiteney Houston become a country singer when she covered I will Always Love You? Because to me it sounds like your saying because Reba sang a beyonce song Reba is now pop.

  12. Paul W Dennis
    November 12, 2010 at 10:19 am Permalink

    Ugh ! The descent into sludge continues

    This album proves that space aliens exist since obviously they kidnapped the Reba who sang country music and replaced her with a vapid clone

  13. Lewis
    November 12, 2010 at 10:50 am Permalink

    I think that it would have been better if Reba had done If I Were A Boy as a duet with Beyonce in the same way she did with Kelly Clarkson and Because of You. I seriously doubt that since it’s her next single from the looks of things by the CMA performance that this will reach Top 10. Top 20 maybe but not Top 10.

  14. Lucas
    November 12, 2010 at 10:59 am Permalink

    Let us not forget that Reba isn’t using Tony Brown anymore as a producer and used Dann Huff for this project. Mr. Huff is an astounding guitar player, probably one of the best and has been one of the “executioners of music row” over the past 10 years.

    His projects include: Lonestar, Rascal Flatts, recently Martina, Keith Urban, Faith sometimes etc etc. I don’t think he’s ever used a fiddle or steel guitar in his productions and is a pioneer of the rapid drum beats.

  15. Jake
    November 12, 2010 at 11:02 am Permalink

    I’ve listened to the album many times through. It’s interesting to read the comments and see the different views. “If I Were A Boy” seems to be a love it or hate it (count me in the former category), whereas there is a lot of support for “The Day She Got Divorced,” which is probably my least favorite song Reba has recorded in the 19 years I’ve been listening to country music. But I think that speaks to how broad Reba’s appeal is, which is a good thing.

    For me, the standouts on the album are the aforementioned “If I Were A Boy” (best song on the album), “Somebody’s Chelsea,” “The Bridge You Burn,” “Turn On The Radio,” “A Little Want To,” and the title track.

    Overall, I think the album as a whole is one of her better packages, ranking up there with FOR MY BROKEN HEART, READ MY MIND and REBA DUETS.

  16. Thomas
    November 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm Permalink

    …if it wasn’t a reba album, it’d probably go unnoticed and quite understandably so. the fact, that a cover is the most remarkable song of the batch says it all really.

  17. Fizz
    November 12, 2010 at 7:40 pm Permalink

    Rejected album title: Who Do You Want Me To Be To Stay On The Radio?

    “When she’s gifted with a great song …” GIfted, hell! She paid good money for ‘em!

    And all this talk of her singing from the female perspective, the slightly-older-best-friend sidekick character in a chick-flick or goofy-girl novel … wonder how many of her songs were written by men?

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