Reba McEntire, Self-Titled: Humble Beginnings

I have been a Reba McEntire fan for nearly my entire life. You can read more about that musical journey here. When I began to collect records I knew I had to have every album she had released on vinyl, but there was one little hiccup.

img_0506For the life of me, I could not find her 1977 Mercury self-titled debut. I searched everywhere from garage sales, record stores, and eBay. There is not a significant hit on this album nor did it even chart on Billboards Country Albums. I guess that means there are not many floating around.

Well, I finally found one in Oklahoma, the perfect place for one to be! We love our McEntires in the red dirt and have supported Reba since the beginning. I have now listened to it many times over and I don’t find it insignificant, but a foretelling of what was to come. This album is her humble beginnings.

Reba’s debut album takes a more traditional route compared to her later recordings. It might sound odd to some fans, but it firmly shows where her roots are planted. The album begins with the sweet, mid-tempo “Glad I waited Just For You.” I would say this is “bubblegum country” at it’s finest. One is then quickly taken into the first ballad of the album, “One to One.” This track is a highlight.

“One to One” echoes 70’s soft rock and shows Reba’s versatile vocals. Ballads are among some of my favorite Reba songs and nobody portrays pure love and pure heartbreak like she does. Although this song is not a “break-up” song, this album does give Reba much room to sing some heart-wrenching tunes.

45db73c6bd77c9326d4e8d185119a4caReba begins to show her emotional chops with songs like “I Was glad To Give My Everything to You,” “Take Your Love Away,” and a cover of Hot’s 1977 hit, “Angel in Your Arms.” One can clearly see where “For My Broken Heart,” “She Thinks His Name Was John,” and “Till You Love Me” come into play later in her career.

Sadly, this album only charted two songs, “I Don’t Want To Be A One Night Stand,” which came in at 88 on Billboards Country Singles chart, and “(There’s Nothing Like The Love) Between A Woman and A Man,” coming in at 86. Each of these songs is memorable, but not chart toppers for late 70’s country.

Lastly, two of the biggest gems are “Why Can’t He Be You” and “Invitation To The Blues.” The first was written by Hank Cochran and previously recorded by Patsy Cline. The later was written by Reba’s Oklahoma contemporary, Roger Miller. Reba’s version of “Why Can’t He Be You” is almost the exact same arrangement as Cline’s and although it still falls short of Cline’s greatness, it is remarkable. Reba’s version proves she had the performing chops in 1977 and it has shown a light to her later career. She was going to be a show stopper.

This album shows an Okie girl making it in the big music world. It’s merely her humble beginnings, just like her ones in the fields of Oklahoma. Although not considered a commercial hit, this album sets a precedent and lays a foundation for Reba’s career.

She’s Doin’ So Fine

This last Saturday, August 1, 2015, was the first Jody Miller Day in Blanchard, Oklahoma. I had the privilege of attending the holiday’s first celebration, the official “Home of Jody Miller” sign unveiling and street dedication. Through various words from the Mayor, radio personalities, and Jody herself, it was more than obvious that she is the pride of Blanchard and one of Oklahoma’s stars.

Leading up to the ceremony I listened to Miller’s Grammy Award winning album, “Queen of The House.” I had found a pristine copy and it has quickly became one of the gems in my collection. I was determined to get Ms. Miller’s signature on this sleeve this day.

The album opens with the iconic “Queen of The House.” This song won the Grammy for best Female Country Performance and is an answer to Roger Miller’s (another Okie) “King of The Road.” It was quite the feminist tune in the most respectful way, especially in 1965. When listening to the song with a narcissistic tone and a little sarcasm, it can be quite a wake up call and very humourous. The video adds much to the song’s candor as well.

IMG_0812The song is followed by another one of Miller’s hits, “He Walks Like A Man.” A tune with a marching beat and brass vocals. Flipping the record, you find classic covers of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line.”

Her voice flows over “Silver Threads” differently then I have heard before. There is no sorrow to be drowned in the warm glow of anybody’s wine for Miller’s voice is a fine wine in itself. Once you listen to a song by Miller you acquire an after taste. Her vocals resonate within you, and it’s difficult to let go. It is the same situation with “I Walk The Line.” Something sticks with you after listening to it. You must listen to this song at least three times for a good sip.

Now, after listening to this album on repeat, I was ready for the event. Although the ceremony was short in length it had great depth. The testimonies about the singer Jody and the person Jody opened your eyes to more than just her music. She’s a God-fearing, family oriented, good ol’ country girl (Thank God!). When I went up to meet her she was shocked that I had a copy of the album and graciously signed it for me. We then chatted for a moment. As an Okie and music fan, it was a surreal experience.

I take great pride in being Oklahoman, our heritage is so rich, but I especially take pride in our musical heritage as a state. Some of the greatest singers have red dirt running through their veins. Many of these singers returned to the great plains and it seems that although they have won lofty awards, being recognized in their own backyard is the biggest one.

It’s safe to say once Okie dust gets in your bones there is no turning back. Our heritage and pride is doing fine down here in Oklahoma and Jody Miller helps make this land grand.

 

She’s Not Cookin’ Hashbrowns

I love Wanda Jackson.

But I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. I have nearly every album she has made. I discovered her music when I was going through a particularly rough patch in my life and she brought me through that storm. Her music brings me unmeasurable joy and comfort. I confide in it.

R-2146286-1306477702Lately I have been listening to one of her 1970’s releases simply entitled Wanda Jackson Country! It’s a great album that showcases her spunk and candor. Each song is single worthy because most of these songs were singles. Jackson had been releasing some hard-hitting country tunes in the late 60’s, but none of them were featured on a full length album, thus, Country! was born.

Long before there were Miranda Lamberts and Kacey Musgraves, and even before Loretta Lynn, there was Wanda Jackson. She is the consummate goddess of country music. This album shows Jackson’s talent at its feistiest, yet it also portrays vulnerability and heartaches . She knows when to reel it out (“My Big Iron Skillet”) and when to bring it back in (“The Pain of It All”).

The album opens with “Skillet,” which is one of her biggest chart toppers. Through her passive aggressive vocals she explains to her man just how she’s going to love him if he doesn’t straighten up….with a big iron skillet and something tells me she isn’t making eggs. No need for shotguns, Jackson just wanted to teach him a lesson, and she does just that through her beautiful smile and a little fringe.

This album also shows Jackson’s innovative and progressive artistry. By this time in her medium_wanda-jacksoncareer she had already paved the way for female rock and country singers alike. She continually saw where music was going and didn’t mess around. This is obvious in both “Everything’s Leaving” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”

“Everything’s Leaving” sounds like something straight from the mid to late 1970’s. Her voice possesses raw vulnerability, yet confidence as she declares she’s ready to move on. Then, “Try a Little Tenderness” has a guitar rift that could easily fit into modern-day country. She always saw the box, but she was more interested in the rectangle.

Later in the album she gives an answer to Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.” In Jackson’s version she recognizes all the major landmarks he drives by, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know as he is driving.

She simply does not care, because she had already found somebody else.

“By The Time You Get to Phoenix” turns this whole song upside down by changing just a few words. Her husband, Wendell Goodman, helped her find this lyrical mix. Not to mention this song was already written by fellow Okie, Jimmy Webb.

wandajackson2Jackson was building a legacy and you can hear that clearly with Country! Today she is hailed as one of the greats and rightfully so. She made the hard-headed woman an everyday staple in society and shattered the glass ceiling. Jackson could rock with the best of them and she had nerve, a first for women in music.

Although there is something Jackson just can’t get around. Her voice and attitude can fill theaters around the world, yet she only comes in at 5’2.” This is not a very intimidating height, especially for a woman. Recently Wanda was asked why it was that so many female rockers are on the shorter side.

Her answer. “Well we can’t punch with our fists so we do it with our mouth.”

And that my friends is the essence of Wanda Jackson. Her voice is her revolver.

 

Reba McEntire, Love Somebody: Life Doesn’t Go Out Like That

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I remember my friend’s parents were divorced and she would tell me about it, but I always knew that wouldn’t be me. My little 5 year-old world was in perfect formation and as hard as concrete. How nice it was be to be that naive.

Until my parents split later that next year.

Issues ensued with the split and 5, 6, 7, 8, year old me had some pretty tough situations. This is when music became my pillar. It stablized me and provided a channel for my emotions. It was always there for me and it never left. It was my distraction and safety.

49fb0424b3a89093cb1fc2c710e66f89We did not have a lot of money and often times our entertainment came in the form of renting movies from Blockbuster. Every now and then Blockbuster would have a sale with all their previously used VHS. My mom would pick out movies and buy them for me, usually for $5 or less. She knew I loved music and she purchased a Reba concert on VHS for me.

Now this was not sitcom or even modern Reba. This was early 90’s Reba with red hair ratted to the ceiling, fringe, and too many costume changes to count. To say the least, I was mesmorized.

I watched that VHS so many times. Recently, I found the same program on Youtube and I still have it memorized. So when I say that I am a life long Reba fan, I ain’t jokin’ ya’ll.

In that VHS, she opened with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and sang all her classic songs including “Does He Love You,” “Walk On,” “Take it Back,” “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” and “Fancy.” It was 90’s Reba at her best and she entertained me for hours on end.

Now let’s fast forward 20 years. A few weeks ago Reba released her 27th studio album entitled Love Somebody. Considering my long history with Reba, I always buy her albums the first day of release. I was really excited about this album since Reba has now moved to the new Nash Icon record label.

1035x1035-Reba_LoveSomebody_CoverThis album has everything I wanted as a Reba fan, but it had an even deeper message for me. I love the sassy tunes like “Going Out Like That,” “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” and “Until They Don’t Love You.” I love the breakup songs like “She Got Drunk Last Night,” “I’ll Go On,” and her duet with Jennifer Nettles, “Enough.” Then she gives us a great story song with “Love Land.” Nobody sings a breakup or story song with the same conviction and emotion as Reba.

“Enough” is a great sequel to Reba’s 1993 hit with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You.”  She also recalls and sings another song for her father who has now passed away, “Them Horses.” This is a very different view point then “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” These are amongst my top favorites.

Although there are two songs on this album that really speak to me both in the past and the present. They are songs of pure love, the title track, “Love Somebody,” and the Reba penned “Pray for Peace.”

reba-mcentire-aint-going-out-like-that-music-video-2015-03-13b-400pxThat’s exactly how I survived all those years of emotional turmoil through the love of many, but most importantly, my mom. I never once saw her cry. She was a pillar of strength. She never showed me her weakness. She gave up so I could have when it came to clothes, toys, you name it.

She even gave up a couple books to buy me a handful of previously viewed VHS’.

Through her pain, she was able to love somebody and luckily that was me. It’s something I can never repay, but it’s a payment never expected. My mom loves me around the world and back, but secretly I love her around the moon and back.

Then there is “Pray for Peace.” I love Reba’s story of this song, but it made me realize where I am now. I am at peace. At 25 I am at peace with my life, relationships, and my potential. I have many struggles I deal with daily, but I’ve made it this far and turning around isn’t even an option.

Through love I gained peace.

reba-mcentires-quotes-7Reba’s music provided a distraction and comfort for a troubled young boy. Her music has also provided a commentary throughout my life. It’s a debt many of us owe so many artists who give us a piece of themselves. Thank you Reba.

I witnessed my mom go down and rise back to the the top. One thing I have learned though all of life is how you often get bucked off your horse and get dirt in your hair. You even probably gained a few bruises and had your pride hurt from that fall, but in the end my mom is always a “Survivor.” Reba highlights this in many of her songs over the years and has recently brought this idea full circle for me.

Through her love my mama has now taught me to never go out like that and that there is always life out there.

Have I Got a Deal For You

If you have read at least two of my blog posts, you will gather that I am from Oklahoma and I love Oklahoma artists. Some of the best musicians have red dirt in their veins. So It’s no wonder that I consider Reba one of the Queens of Country Music. I am extremely proud to call the same state she does home.

This is my second writing over a Reba record. I first wrote a review over her 1986 smash Whoever’s in New England. A classic album that is a must listen for any true country fan. Recently, I found her last album ever issued on vinyl, For My Broken Heart. 

This vinyl was only released through Columbia House. It came out in 1991 when vinyls were beginning to be phased out for cassette tapes and CDs. It is a very rare find, even on the internet. Discogs doesn’t have a single copy for sale, and the last copy on eBay went for $75. I assume you can see my excitement when I found it for $6 at a local record shop.

This is also the first album Reba released after the death of over half her band in a plane accident. It’s very obvious in the song selection and in the tone of Reba’s voice. Although there is not a song that addresses the situation directly, the melancholy feel of the album expresses a broken heart.

In fact, Reba writes in the liner notes, “It seems your current emotional status determines what music you’d like to hear…If for any reason you can relate to the emotion packed inside these songs, I hope it’s a form of healing for all our broken hearts.”

For My Broken Heart does not contain any songs to the likes of “Fancy,” “Can’t Even Get The Blues,” or “Why Haven’t I Heard From You.” Instead, Reba opts for more ballad, storyline, emotional pieces.

The album opens with the title track “For My Broken Heart.” This has always been one of my favorite Reba ballads. It’s very symbolic for this album, especially the lyrics, “I guess the world didn’t stop for my broken heart.” Although she was feeling emotional pain, along with many of her staff, and the family and of those who had fallen, the world didn’t stop. The worst thing that could have happened is if the music had stopped.

The next songs tell narrative stories, something I believe Reba is a genius at performing and interperting. These songs include “Bobby,” “He’s in Dallas,” “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere to Go),” “Buying her Roses,” and “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.”

One of the major staples of this album, which was also an eventual number one, is the powerful story of “Is There Life out There.” Not only is this a story of a woman wondering what the world has to offer, but it is a message to those affected by the plane accident, prompting them to keep going, and that there is going to be more “out there.”

Then there is “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia.” This has also been one of my long time Reba favorites, although surprisingly it only charted at number 12. I feel this is the one song that was clearly recorded to be a commercial success, yet her songs of hope of broken hearts won the biggest spots on the charts. This was Reba’s moving on moment, proving there was still life out there, and that everyone affected must go on.

This has now become one of my favorite Reba albums and, to be honest, initially I was only interested in the collector’s aspect. Don’t get me wrong. I listen to each album I purchase, and I can’t think of a Reba album I don’t like. After listening to this album, I found a deeper connection woven within its lyrics and Reba’s timeless vocals. It’s an album of sorrow, but most of all, it is an album hope.

In1985, Reba released an album, Have I Got a Deal For You. Although this album was made 5 or so years later this album has become quite a deal for me, not only in what I paid, but also in what I hear.

Anytime Reba’s dealing, I’m playing.

Meeting Royalty in Your Own Backyard

This week Mary and I had the pleasure of finally meeting her royal rockness, the Queen of Rock’n’Roll, Ms. Wanda Jackson.

Meeting Jackson was a huge honor and it had been a dream of mine as I am sure many of you can tell by my multiple posts. She was IMG_5307gracious and very kind. She held my hand as she told me the story of my favorite song and was amazed to hear that I have all but two of her albums. I told her how her music has touched my life, and that her later gospel recordings helped me through a rough patch in my life. She turned to me and responded, “Well sounds like I’ve been a big part of your life.”

Fun Fact: The jacket she has on in the picture was given to her by Jack White and she wore it in GQ magazine.

So in honor of meeting Jackson and considering her extensive recording career, I have decided to countdown my top 7 favorite albums.

Number 7: I Gotta Sing

This album was released in 1971. Since I’m only limiting myself to two favorite songs per album, I would have to say my choices for this one is her cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and her cover of “Fancy Satin Pillows.” This is a great album that shows the reason for Jackson’s longevity.

Number 6: Praise the Lord

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

I am a sucker for country gospel, and this album doesn’t disappoint this musical facade. Released in 1973, my two favorite songs off this album are “How Great Thou Art” and “Am I Not My Brother’s Keeper.” The liner notes for this album are interesting due to the fact her then pastor, Rev. Paul Slayer of South Lindsey Baptist Church in OKC, wrote the liner notes.

Number 5: Unfinished Business

This album is her latest and was released in 2012. My two favorites from this album is “Am I Even a Memory” and “California Stars.” This album was produced by Justin Townes Earle and he duets with her on “Memory.” This album shows that Jackson is still on top of her game.

Number 4:  The Many Moods of Wanda Jackson

This album has great covers that spread across a wide array of topics. “Fever” and “If I Had a Hammer” stand out for me. This album was released in 1968 and is a must have for any Jackson Fan.

Number 3: Right or Wrong7 Digital

This album shows Jackson’s soft and rock style in full 50’s form. The first side, properly entitled “The Sensitive Side” on the liner notes contains my first favorite, “Right or Wrong.” Jackson originally wrote this song for Brenda Lee, but she said she already had more hits then her, so she was going to keep it. My second favorite from “The Rockin Side” is “Who Shot Sam.” This album solidified Jackson in the recording industry as one here for the stayin’.

Number 2: The Party Ain’t Over

Mary's signed copy of "The Party Ain't Over."

Mary’s signed copy of “The Party Ain’t Over.”

Every Jackson fan was elated when this album was released. It came out in 2011 and was produced by the great Jack White. To be honest, every song on this album is a favorite and narrowing it down to two is tough. I would have to say her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on The Mountain” is top and then “Dust on the Bible.” There’s also these two really great songs, the late Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m no Good” and “Busted.” Then there’s “Blue Yodel #6.” Just buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Number 1: Rockin’ with Wanda

LastFM.com

LastFM.com

This album defined women in Rock’N’Roll. This album is pure rockabilly, but with a twist only a woman could handle. “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad” and “Fujiyama Mama” are barely the surface of this landmark album. “Hot Dog” was one of the first songs I heard of Jackson’s. To me, this is the album that set everything into place for Jackson’s career establishing women in Rock’N’Roll and the defining of a genre.

These brief summaries barely describe these albums or touch on Jackson’s legacy. There are many more outstanding albums in her catalog. I’m still reeling from the fact that I was able to meet her. I no longer have to keep my album covers in the back of my car just in case I run into her at the Wal-Mart.

Spinning and Reeling,

Gabe

Okie Review: Part 2: Whoever is an Idiot…

…is one that doesn’t agree this album is what country music is all about.

This album is the benchmark of Reba McEntire’s Career. Her album Whoever’s in New England was her 10th studio album. It was her first to reach the top spot on the Billboard Country Album chart and later that year she won CMA’s Entertainer of the Year.

Now, before I fully indulge in this review I must reveal my bias. I am a HUGE Reba fan. I photo (2)always have been and always will be. I am extremely proud to say that she is from Oklahoma and I believe she is the queen of modern country music. I’ve seen her twice in concert, and plan on going every time she’s within a 100 mile or so radius from me.

Whoever’s in New England is the essence of what true country music should encompass, both in content and musically (there’s some great steel guitar in there!). The album is comprised of mostly sad songs, but also some jolly breakup songs as well. The content includes how the man went out on her, she’s gonna take him back, she’s leaving him, she’s rushing into a relationship, etc. The only thing she left out was the horses back home in Stringtown.

I’ve decided to do a track by track rundown of this record, because I took notes on each song and they are all great.

Track 1: “Can’t Stop Now.” This song explains how Reba has rushed into a relationship and that now the “love we made has a life of its own.” The song is traditional 80’s country with a classic country twang. I don’t two step well, but I would really like to give this track a try.

Track 2: “You Can Take The Wings off Me.” This song explains how one is losing their innocence and I will say no more. I look at Reba like I look at my mom.

Last.fm

Last.fm

Track 3: ” Whoever’s in New England.” Legendary. This song has been a long time favorite of mine. I can’t resist it. It crosses genres, for it doesn’t sound completely country. My favorite line “When the icy wind blows through you remember that it’s me, that feels the cold most of all.” And, o my, that high note at the end, strums my heart strings every time. This was the first song she made a video for. Recently in concert she was showing a montage of her videos and she quipped, look at that hair! Did I also mention this song went number one?

Track 4: “I’ll Believe it When I Feel It.” This is a nice soft country song that I would also like to two step to.  McEntire talks of a man leaving her and how her friends say she will have “it” again with another man, to which she replies, I’ll believe it when I see it. I love the drums during the chorus and their crescendo effect.

Track 5: “I’ve Seen Better Days.” This is a beautiful breakup song. She even says a rainy day with him holding her is better then what she is feeling now, a little ironic. McEntire provides a nice prayer at the end of the song.

Open. Flip. Side B.

Track 6: “Little Rock.” This is a happy little ditty about divorce.  She talks about slipping off that “little rock” on her finger because “there’s more to life then what I got.” This song went number one. It portrays the character of a strong woman, willing to take her life back in her own hands, even if they don’t have any diamonds on them.

Track 7: “If You Only Knew.” This song takes on a different twist. It’s a breakup song, but through the lens of friendship. McEntire explains how her friend comes to her, envious of her single life. She then reveals that it is not what it’s cracked up to be when your “always in control.” She encourages the young damsel to “put your anger down, turn around, and go back home.”

Track 8: “One Thin Dime.” This song is classic country. It is upbeat and talks about a breakup. Although, she is not bitter for she states how she will always be there and is one thin dime away. I’m assuming “one thin dime” refers to what they call pay phones. I’m still getting used to the rotary at my house.

Track 9: “Don’t Touch Me There.” This is a ballad about a person being slightly afraid to dive into a relationship. She says he can hold her hands, kiss her lips, wrap his arms around her, and run his fingers through her hair, but there’s just one place he cannot touch, her heart.

Track 10: “To Make That Same Mistake.” This is another fast two step breakup song. It’s a
great end to the album, considering it opened with rushing into a relationship and now she just hopes she can make that same mistake again, which would be falling in love. A great conclusion to a landmark country album.

There is one word I use to describe Reba’s voice: gold. Her voice has been never changing since the late 1970’s. Her vocal ability is unparalleled with her contemporaries. I have personally witnessed this in her live performances. Her performances are high energy, with sprinkles of red dirt. She has made her state proud.

gac.com

So I am still trying to figure out who exactly could hate this album. I mean even if you don’t like Reba, you have to admit it’s legendary. If not you can probably just move, to New England preferably, ahh heck, the barn will do.

 

 

Swingin’ and Spinnin’,

Gabe

The first Reba video…