Reba McEntire is back with “Love Somebody,” her first album in five years. McEntire co-produced the album with several partners, including Tony Brown, James Stroud, and Doug Sisemore. She shrewdly surrounded herself with some of Nashville’s hottest songwriters — and, more importantly, some of the best, including Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Lori McKenna — resulting in her freshest sounding release in some time.
On the 12-track collection — 14 if you buy it at Target — the Oklahoma native touches on all the topics and styles that helped to make her a country music legend. She manages to keep her hand in the contemporary game without it feeling too much like she is pandering to current trends.
Love the sassy “You go, girl!” Reba who isn’t going to let a little heartache get her down? Then press play for the keep-your-head-up-after-a-breakup anthem “Going Out Like That,” which is marred only slightly (as are a few other songs here) by the obligatory overly heavy guitar solo. Or dig into the catchy “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” with its boppy rhythms and whimsical wordplay.
A fan of Reba’s classic infidelity duet with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You”? Check out “Enough,” featuring Jennifer Nettles as the 2015 edition of the mistress who hopes for more while Reba plays the role of the wife. Neither woman is getting what she wants from the man in question, but they join forces for top notch-harmonies and enjoyably grandiose melodrama.
Was it the thoughtful story-song piano ballads that made you fall in love with Reba? She offers several tunes in this category, including the stirring, string-adorned end-of-life weeper “Just Like Them Horses” and the getting-her-groove-back epiphany “That’s When I Knew.”
Ever wonder what Reba might sound like tackling the glossy contemporary style now scoring on the charts — and worry that it might be terrible? Check out the surprisingly effective title track, co-written by McAnally, Osborne, and the currently white-hot Sam Hunt. It finds the Country Music Hall of Famer urging open-heartedness over a big beat (and more unnecessarily showy guitar) that doesn’t rob her of her brass — or, for that matter, of her banjo and pedal steel.
Inspirational Reba your cup of devotion? The solemn yet soulful “Pray for Peace,” featuring Kelly Clarkson and Ronnie Dunn, should lift your spirits.
Not surprisingly, the album’s best track, “She Got Drunk Last Night,’ was penned by Clark and McAnally. It’s a gut punch of harsh reality — “She needed an excuse to let herself get used” — wrapped in a gorgeous melody, as a woman downs liquid courage to make the call to the man she knows doesn’t love her but, for tonight, will give her the attention she needs.
While there are a few filler tracks, it’s nice to have all of these Rebas back in business. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “She Got Drunk Last Night”