Concert: Reba McEntire at Tanglewood

Sometimes I struggle being from Oklahoma. Not in a literal sense, but from a moral standpoint. It’s complicated. I moved to New York around three years ago. To say the least, it’s been the best experience of my life.

Although New York offers nearly every experience under the sun, there is one thing missing: real country music. When I got word that Reba McEntire was just going to be two and a half hours north of me in Massachusets, it was a no brainer.

Courtesy of Amazon.

McEntire and her music truly mean the world to me. I’ve been a fan since I was in elementary school. Without going into great detail, my parents divorced when I was six years old. To be honest, I don’t remember all the details, but I still carry the heartache with me.

My mom knew I loved music. One day she brought home a “previously viewed” VHS from the local Blockbuster. I’m sure it was in the sale bin, that’s the only way she could have afforded it. The video was Reba: Live. I couldn’t tell you how many times I watched it. This concert became my safety blanket. My mind did not understand what it was feeling, but McEntire gave a voice and relief to those emotions.

Back to 2019. I found that McEntire was going to be the season closer for Tanglewood in the Berkshires in Lenox, MA. This was not the best financial decision, but once I found a few front row seats left I entered my credit card nearly faster than my fingers could type.

The concert, which took place on Sunday, was phenomenal. McEntire has been in the music game for 43 years. She’s a veteran, but her enthusiasm for her music and the fans has never been lost. She sinks each song like it’s brand new. She opened the concert with “Turn On The Radio,” a track from her 2010 album All The Women I Am. She quickly went into a melody of numerous number-one singles, including one of my all-time favorites “Can’t Even Get The Blues.”

Then came the song that will always pull my heartstrings “Whoever’s In New England.” It was perfection. Shortly after came her 2017 single, “Back to God.” The conviction in her voice was chilling. McEntire sings this song from wisdom and experience.

About 75% of the way through the show, she embarked on the Grammy-winning “Does He Love You.” This song was recorded with Linda Davis in 1993, but a member of McEntire’s band, Jennifer Wrinkle, accompanies McEntire on tour. To my dismay, Wrinkle does not have a solo album. She was superb.

As per McEntire tradition, she closed the show with “Fancy.” This is truly a “bow down to the queen” moment. Once she exits the stage and reemerges in that red dress, her legacy is undeniable. Yet she still meets her audience with humility. There is never a pompous moment. That’s the art of the Reba concert, you leave feeling she is your best friend.

Through all these amazing songs and stories, one moment stands above the rest. As McEntire began to introduce “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” she told the story of her family. It’s impossible to not mention Oklahoma when talking about the McEntire’s. At that moment, in a crazy fan haze, I yelled: “I’m from Oklahoma!” She went on with her conversation. I thought nothing of it.

She then turned around and said “Where are you from in Oklahoma?” and walked straight to me.I told her I was from Lawton and she acknowledged how she knew right where that was. She went on to say that Oklahoma was “so important.” At this moment, in another crazy fan haze, I yelled: “I love you.” Then she looked at me once more and said: “I love you too.”

After the show, as I was reeling from McEntire speaking to me, I felt so much pride. Not in just where I come from, but in how far I’ve come. Although sometimes I am conflicted about my home state, it has given me an unshakeable foundation. I haven’t nearly seen the world like McEntire, but it is surreal that we could connect, even for a moment, over our shared heritage. The spirit of Oklahoma is more than OK, we’re extraordinary.

I’d like for you to take two main points from this article: 

1.) Go see Reba McEntire in concert. She’s nothing short of phenomenal.

2.) There is life out there, but Oklahoma and your heritage will always be there when you need ’em. 

PLAYLIST: Reba McEntire, The Deep Cuts

Being from Oklahoma, Reba McEntire‘s music is almost a daily occurrence for me. I’ve been a McEntire fan for most of my life. My mom bought one of her concerts on VHS when I was six and I’ve been smitten with her music ever since. I listened to everything I could get a hold of and now I own every album she’s ever recorded. I’m not obsessed; I just have a deep respect.

Each McEntire album is a meticulous painting. Some are blue while others are red hot. Each is carefully curated, especially after she signed with MCA and took musical control of her career. She is known for her 26 Billboard No. 1 hits but there are so many hidden gems within these records…

Check out Nashville Noise for the full list!

PLAYLIST: A Few Top Female Trailblazers

I haven’t written in a while. Life has gotten away from me and I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. Today felt like a fitting return, as it is a day to truly celebrate.

Many strong women have impacted me through out my life. From my mom to mentors, women have had a profound impact on my character and integrity. As a self proclaimed quasi-feminist, I truly value women’s impact on our society, and to be honest, I feel sad that we need to be reminded to celebrate them.

That’s another argument to be had another day, today I want to celebrate International Women’s Day. In celebration, I have comprised a list of the top female trailblazers in music history. It’s safe to note, this list is not a comprehensive list.  One may not agree with all my choices, but I think we will all agree these women are music royalty and deserve to be celebrated.


1. Wanda Jackson

To say that I am a fan of Wanda Jackson is an understatement. I adore her music, faith, and tenacity in her life and career. Jackson created the female rockstar and the country bombshell at the same time. If it wasn’t for her there would not be any Joan Jetts or Carrie Underwoods. The best thing about her trailblazing history is that she didn’t even know what she was causing at the time, but she knew she was doing something.

2. Cher

Cher has as many definitions as she does hair colors, but she was the original female pop mega star. Not only did she have immense success as 1/2 of Sonny and Cher, she went on to score 3 number one hits in the early 1970’s. The press couldn’t get enough of her and neither could her fans. To this day she keeps blazing new ways showing that superstars are ageless while defining “Twitter advocacy.”

3. Diana Ross

If Cher created the first female pop mega star, then Diana Ross created the first female soul/R&B mega star. From her early days with The Supremes to her continuous solo career, Ross has more iconic hits then one can remember. Ross created fierce and paved the way for African American females in the music industry.

4. Reba McEntire

As a die-in-the-wool Oklahoman, I love Reba McEntire. As a music fan, I am devoted to everything she touches. Her career started in the early 1970’s without much success, until she finally hit number one in 1982 with “Can’t Even Get The Blues.” She created the country music superstar single handedly while always keeping the tradition of those who came before her. Not far from being over, she just won the “Best Roots Gospel Album” at the 2018 Grammys.

5. Tina Turner

There is so much to be said of Tina Turner. She created the “comeback.” After a tumultuous and abusive relationship with her husband and musical partner Ike Turner, Tina walked away with only her name. She began to perform in Vegas dives for someone of her caliber until Capital records took a chance on her. Thus she created “Private Dancer” and the rest is history.

6.  Madonna

Although I am not particularly a huge fan of Madonna, I do respect what she has done in the music industry. With that being said, I have nothing left to say.

7. Billie Holiday

As Paula Cole pointed out to me, Billie Holiday was the first great female American singer/ songwriter. Writing classics like “Don’t Explain” and “God Bless The Child,” Holiday declared herself the mother of jazz vocals. She was also one of the original leading musicians to take a social stand with her music with the song “Strange Fruit.”

8.  Judy Garland

Judy Garland was the greatest American stage performer. Her voice could touch every emotion and her presence could fill any venue. Sadly, we lost Garland when she was just 47 years old. Although many remember her from The Wizard of Oz, she was more than Dorothy.

9. Whitney Houston

Some artists need essays to describe them, but Whitney only needs two words: The Voice.


With that, I would like to say Happy International Women’s Day to all today! Let us truly remember the impact women have had on all of our lives.

Godspeed to every woman today and every day. All I can simply say is thank you.

PLAYLIST: Let’s Keep Walking

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it isn’t for a lack of spinning. My life season is beginning to speed up and I have been enjoying music with no strings attached.

I’m also attempting to listen to EVERY vinyl in my collection and it’s taking a while. I’m discovering new jewels while relishing in favorites. I’m listening to my collection by artist.  By not writing about what I am listening too, I am sparing you 50 posts over Judy Garland.

Although, a theme has risen through the music I have been listening to at home and work. I have been gravitating towards songs and artists that I feel empowered through. I’m listening to songs that tell me “I’m worthy.”

I am not necessarily going through a depressed stage of my life, but it isn’t my happiness by no means. I need a pick me up. Here are some of the artists that have inspired me to keep walking lately.

As with all my lists, they are in no particular order.

1. John Legend

I have been a fan of Legend on and off for many years now. Recently I have been intently listening to his latest release, Darkness and Light and his first release, 2013’s Get Lifted. What I love about Get Lifted is its straight honesty and how Legend styles hip hop. Darkness and Light has become special to me as I have become more socially aware. Although I am a white male, when legend sings “There is power in the color of my face” in “I Know Better,” it not only brings awareness to problems our society is still facing, but it also reminds me that we are all unique and contribute to God’s vast world.

2. Beyoncé

Sorry B, couldn’t wait for an official release of Lemonade on vinyl.

Beyoncé strives to provide empowerment for women and African-Americans on her albums, especially with her last two releases Beyoncé and Lemonade, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a universal message. As a by-product of her mission, I have also seen that I can be comfortable in my own skin. I just feel pumped to be me when I hear the likes of “***Flawless” and “Formation.” Again these are songs that speak to me as I have begun to dissect my surrounds and become aware of our society. I am not discrediting this, I just think it’s beautiful that she can speak to anybody in any circumstance through her music’s message.

3. Reba McEntire

Now it is not everyday you see Beyonce and Reba in the same list, but my versatile ear is unpredictable from hour to hour. Reba’s latest album, Sing it Now: Songs of Faith and Hope has spoken to me in a way an album hasn’t in many years. Reba is very special to me (read about that here) and this album has helped me as my faith has been growing lately. There is not a more poignant message then her latest single “Back to God.” This world would be a better place if we just gave it back to the Creator and lived the true message of what it means to be like Christ (I will have a full post on this album soon). For unbelievers, I think the universal concept here is if we only would love each other and lay ourselves down for the goodness of others and the world, we could create a better place one action at a time. Below is my favorite lyrics and Reba’s conviction gives me chills.

“You gotta cry, rain tears of pain

Pound the floor and scream His name

‘Cause we’re still worth saving”

So although taking steps into the hurdles of our days may be burdensome and heavy, we have to realize we all have something to contribute to this world, we are all-powerful, and we need to love each other more. If we could realize these simple truths we would truly give this world back to God, and serve a higher purpose than ourselves. We would serve others.

Basically there is power in all of our faces, we must sing and act on faith and hope, and slay while we do it. This world is worth saving.

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Reba McEntire, Self-Titled

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.

Reba McEntire's, First AlbumFor 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.

Reba McEntireReba 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.

ALBUM REVIEW: George Strait, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind

First let me start by asking forgiveness from all my fellow country music enthusiasts. I have a terrible debt that I must confess.

I’ve barely ever listened to George Strait.

I truly apologize. He has charted 44 number one singles on the Billboard charts and has 60 number ones when counting other charts. He has also sold nearly 100 million records worldwide. To say the least, I’m late to the game.

IMG_2439What better day to educate myself about the King of Country then the eve of his birthday? I have around 4 of his albums in my collection due to my mom buying them for me. She always buys albums for me when she finds them. We are both constant garage-salers and thrift store hoppers.

In one of the piles that my Mom bought me was George Strait’s Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. Honestly, I didn’t think much of the record. I already had other country favorites and I was really tired of hearing how amazing Strait was, then there is my mom’s endless talk about his butt.

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind was released in 1984 and quickly shot its way to the top of the Billboard country chart. This album generally comes a little late in country music for my tastes. I don’t listen to much 1980’s country unless it’s The Judds, Reba McEntire, or Dwight Yoakam. I’m more of a 1960’s and 1970’s classic country fan, but yet again, I have been proven wrong.

This album opens with the title track “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.” To my surprise Strait’s vocals didn’t remain on a stagnant line like I always thought, yet they came full of tear drops and intricate country stylings. This broken heart ballad comes with all the fixens’: pleadin’, reminiscin’, and drinkin.’ It’s the sequel to “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.”

Next is one of my favorites, “Any Old Time.” It comes with a heavy country swing rhythm and some rather fancy fiddlin’. Strait was clearly no longer thinking of Fort Worth.

IMG_2440“Honk Tonk Saturday Night” finishes out side A. This song is another ballad of sorts that echoes Loretta Lynn’s “Honky Tonk Girl.” Strait’s vocals convey the same contentment and loneliness Lynn’s did years before.

Side B starts with “I Should Have Watched That First Step” and “Love Comes From The Other Side of Town.” Both of these songs have classic country themes with a little extra boot scootin’ mixed in. The true highlights of side B though are the last two singles from this album “The Cowboy Rides Away” and “The Fireman.”

“The Cowboy Rides Away” is 80’s country at it’s best, sprinkled with the heritage of the legends before. It’s the confidence in Strait’s voice that catches my attention. Although the song comes from a vulnerable state (a breakup), he finds his confidence in riding away, knowing there will be something else along the path. That mixed with the instrumentation of this song makes this an undeniable hit.

Lastly, we have “The Fireman,” the last single from this album. It’s a close relative to “Any Old Time.” I can imagine a group of couples two steppin’ to this song easily. Strait’s consistent vocals give this song sustainability while showing Strait’s versatile vocal ability.

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So as I sit here on the eve of George Strait’s 64th birthday, I find myself musically improvished. I hate the fact that I have not given Strait the time he deserves until now. What I find the most exquisite about Strait is how his voice is always stable. It never seems to give out or lose pitch, but it always conveys a direct fluid emotion.

With the discovery of George Strait, I have realized I am just another honky-tonk boy. You see, honky tonkin’ is a style of living. It’s about hitting the high of highs and the low of lows while maintaining a sound character. That’s what Strait’s voice, the longevity of his career, and his character portrays. When was the last time you saw George Strait in the tabloids?

I now realize I have always been a honky-tonk boy. Now I have a Strait road to travel.

ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Diamond, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – The Scruff After The Shave

I remember the first time I ever heard Neil Diamond. Actually, wait, no I don’t. For as long as I can comprehend there was Neil Diamond. He was not one of those artists that captivated me when I was young, yet I always knew he was somebody important. I was certain he was of legendary status, but I just never explored his music.

FullSizeRender 2Neil Diamond is much like the “American Popular Song,” the first track off of his album You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. Diamond’s catalog and musical genius goes on and on. This album encompasses Diamond’s raw talent in the middle of his biggest days.

This vinyl also contains the Diamond classic “Forever in Blue Jeans.” This is a song for summer. With its light guitar and uptempo beat, it reminds me of a warm summer afternoon with that special someone. It strips love of all its complexities into a simple afternoon in blue jeans.

This albums next milestone comes with Diamond’s version of “You’ve Got Troubles.” His rendition of this song comes with all the Diamond charm, including those scruffy vocals, and a riveting piano line, yet it is mixed with a slight disco/ folk feel. I could easily roller skate or protest to this song.

After these light-hearted songs of love and troubles comes the pinnacle of this album and one of the finest songs that Neil Diamond had a hand in composing. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a duet with Barbra Streisand, has been a long time favorite of mine. I find it to be the companion piece to Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’s “Endless Love.” These songs together show both extremes of romance, yet they can flow in and out of each other. Streisand’s vocals flow effortlessly over the piano and strings, but Diamond’s vocals provide the foundation of the song.

FullSizeRender 3One can feel the angst in his voice as he contemplates the idea of separation, and he is placing himself in a vulnerable position. It’s clear the downfall of this relationship lies with both sides, yet it is sprung by the simplest situation. They simply no longer bring flowers to each other anymore, a metaphor that can mean many things. This song is about the spark in a relationship that is essential through little actions and what it means when they go undone.

As one flips this album they are immediately met with a pure dance anthem, “The Dancing Bumble Bee/Bumble Boogie.” This song is composed of pure funk arrangements with a spinning disco ball in mind. This tune insists dancing.

The listener is then confronted with an eerie and light guitar rift that turns into a dramatic menagerie with “Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons.” This song makes me picture the pilgrims landing on Plymouth in bell bottoms and crop tops coming down the Mayflower with a little boogie. Not a bad idea.

The last three songs on this album are solely written by Diamond. The biggest gem from this trilogy is “Diamond Girls.” It’s a Diamond power ballad with a major disco bass line that tells the story of a girl giving her all for the sake of her dreams and a better life. This is Diamond’s version of Gentry’s (or McEntire’s) “Fancy.”

IMG_2108Diamond is in all his legendary glory with this album. He encompasses many emotions from the air of an uptempo disco party to the trampling of flowers. What I find most intriguing about this album though is his vocal performance. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers really brings Diamond’s voice to fruitionI’ve listened to him many times, but I have now finally pinpointed exactly what his voice mirrors.

Diamond’s vocals are essentially the scruff you get hours after a good shave. His voice is crisp and clean yet it possess a grit. A man can never fully rid himself of this issue, just like Diamond has been in music forever. One cannot quite get a hold of those tiny 5 o’clock shadow hairs either, just like one cannot pinpoint Diamond’s voice, writings, and longevity.

Diamond’s music is timeless. His writings are authentic. He is a pillar in the evolution of music.

He is the scruff after the shave where it gets real.