Keep on Loving You is the twenty-fifth studio album by country music artist Reba McEntire, and her first album to be released through the Starstruck/Valory label. The album was released on August 18th, 2009 (US), August 20th, 2009 (Aust), and August 31st, 2009 (UK). Keep on Loving You was Reba’s first solo album in six years. It peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart and U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The album has thirteen tracks, and plays for just over forty-eight minutes. Much like her previous studio album (Reba: Duets) it has a more pop feel to it. Whilst promoting the album Reba has credited Kelly Clarkson as an influence on what types of songs she looked for to include on the album. Something which a fan of both artists can notice when listening to this album as there is a noticeable, yet positive, change with distinct Kelly vibes in some of the songs.
First up we have the up-tempo Strange (Writers: Wendell Mobley, Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher), a song about getting over a break-up and being ready to move on. Of course before we can move on we have to teach a lesson, such as wearing a strapless black dress whilst showing up to pick up the rest of our stuff from the ex’s house. While I do know some people who would say that the title of the song describes the song, and music video well, the song has a good message about how you can get past a break-up and it will be okay one day. It does not showcase any high notes that Reba is capable of reaching, but she does showcase her ability of vocal gymnastics particularly on the word strange. This song served as the lead single from the album.
Next we have a fast-temp song - Just When I Thought I Stopped Lovin’ You (Writers: Mark Nesler, Rivers Rutherford). The lyrics are fast matched to flow with the opening tune, until we lead into the chorus where both the speed of the music and words slows. This provides for a contrast between the fast-tempo verses and the mid-tempo chorus. The song title explains what this song is about quite well. For me there is a potential ending point at the three minute mark, as the final verse does not provide us much more than a few points of showcasing Reba’s vocal ability to hold notes. This is not to say that it does not have a good ending, as it does, I just also can see an alternate ending when listening to the song. The song was originally pitched for Kelly Clarkson (who was also looking for songs at the time) but it was too country for her, and since Reba loved it she decided to record it.
The third song, which also served as the third and final single from the album is I Keep on Lovin’ You (Writers: Ronnie Dunn, Terry McBride). The title track is a mid-tempo ballad which is clearly a love song from the opening bars. The tune has a romantic feel to it which is matched by the lyrics, and is reflected in the music video, which featured a wedding. Reba has mentioned that the reason why she connected with this song and included it on the album was because of her marriage to her manager Narvel Blackstock: “We have been through rough times and tough times and arguments, but we made up over and over again.” Listening to the song you can see that very message displayed in the lyrics, and after twenty-three years of marriage (as of June 3rd, 2012) it can inspire us all on what we can achieve in our own lives and relationships as long as we have love.
The fourth song is another fast-tempo song, I Want a Cowboy (Writers: David Davidson, Katrina Elam, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Jimmie Lee Sloas). Personally I find this to be one of those songs which has Kelly Clarkson’s influence, whilst being that little bit too country for her to actually sing it. This song was originally recorded by American country artist Katrina Elam on her 2004 self-titled album. Whilst I do not know this artist or the original version, I do feel that the song is more suited for a younger artist such as Katrina; however in saying that Reba executes the song well. Reba told Great American Country, “I am a huge fan of Katrina Elam. She is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard. I asked Tony (Brown, producer) to ask Katrina if I could cut I Want a Cowboy. She came in and sang some of the harmony on it too. It’s a great kick-ass song that is good attitude. And I’m a cowgirl; I’ve rodeoed 10 years and I’m a third-generation rodeo brat, so I thought it was just perfect.”
Consider Me Gone (Writers: Steve Diamond, Marv Green) is another song whose emotion is reflected in the music. With this song Reba displays at many points the power in her voice, reaching a number of high notes during the choruses. The song is a warning that if you think you can do better than what you currently have in your relationship you should consider the other person gone. This song served as the second single from the album and in January 2010 it became Reba’s first number one in five years (her previous number one was Somebody in August, 2004).
Our sixth song is another sweet love song, But Why (Writers: Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher). The song tells of how you could live without all the good things being in a relationship provides you, but questions why you would do that when the person loves you. If you are in a good relationship it is understandable that you would question why you should or would give it up. Personally I feel that it makes a good love song for someone who is a same-sex relationship, as some people would want you to get out of that relationship and you would ask why if it is a good relationship.
With the seventh song we are brought another fast-tempo song, Pink Guitar (Writers: Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher). This song was previously recorded by Australian country artist Jasmine Rae in 2008. I do know both versions of the song, and personally I am not a fan of the song in general. The song tells of a young girl’s dream to become a country music star. The song relates more to Jasmine since she is a newer artist who is trying to become a star here, whilst as a Queen of Country Music, Reba already is one. Reba’s version shows her experience and vocal ability, particularly at the end.
She’s Turning 50 Today (Writers: Liz Hengber, Tommy Lee James, Reba McEntire) is the only track on the album which Reba has writing credits on. She wrote two lines, sent them to Liz Hengber, and two years later the song was completed and recorded for this album. Reba told Great American Country, “I rewrote the second verse to make it more personal and relate to me when I left Stringtown, Oklahoma, in 1987. So in a way it’s about me leaving a relationship, but it was certainly years ago, but put the two together.” Whilst her other songs so far on the album relate to her range of fans, this song is one which is aimed more at her older audience. The song tells of a woman packing up and leaving her home after her husband has left her “for a woman that was half her age”, so that she can start a new life in some unknown destination. Whilst this mid-tempo song lacks in many high notes or vocal gymnastics it is still quite an entertaining song. The story is one which is typical of Reba, showing that women can do things to change their life for the better.
The ninth song is Eight Crazy Hours (In the Story of Love) (Writers: Leslie Satcher, Darrell Scott), which tells of a woman who feels unloved so takes some time out to think about if she is doing something wrong in her life to make her children and husband no longer need her. By the end of the song however the woman has decided to return to her family as if nothing had happened – it was just a bad mood which the time to herself helped clear up. The moral of the song is that when it comes to love you should not give up. Personally I would like to add what the song fails to include – you should give up if it really is hopeless and you are only getting hurt. This song was previously recorded by American country singer Shelly Fairchild in 2005, on her debut album, Ride.
Nothing to Lose (Writer: Kim Fox) is another up-tempo track, which describes having nothing to lose now that the narrator has been left by their ex. They may as well do anything they like now, and feel all alone, as there is nothing tying them down or stopping them. A fun song which is good to dance to, although not a track I can say is one of my favourites on the album. Melonie Cannon originally recorded it in 2004 on her debut album, and Reba has said, “I love Melonie’s voice. Nothing to Lose was one of those songs that I said, ‘Man, if I could ever record that?,’ so I did.” about the song and why she recorded it. This song was also previously featured on Trisha Yearwood’s Greatest Hits album in 2005, one of two songs on the album that had not been previously released.
Over You (Writers: Michael Dulaney, Steven Dale Jones, Jason Sellers) takes me back to And Still, from her 1994 album Read My Mind. For me Over You holds more emotion and power than And Still does as it has both the power and emotion found within the lyrics and Reba’s voice and the power and emotion of the music. Both songs tell a similar story of loving someone who you are no longer with, but being unable to be with them anymore because the other person has moved on. However unlike And Still, which does not reveal that the other person has moved on until about three quarters of the way into the song in the final verse, Over You lets you know from the second verse. If you listen to both songs you will see the similarities between them.
Proving that she is not put off by more controversial and tough subjects, Reba brings us Maggie Creek Road (Karyn Rochelle, James T. Slater). The song is the story of a mother who is warning her daughter not to go down Maggie Creek Road because her boyfriend might rape her, which was what had happened to her when she was her daughter’s age. At the end of the song the mother shows just what a mother is willing to do to protect her daughter from going through the same thing, rescuing her before the same thing happens. The accompanying music has a slightly darker feel which matches the lyrics. Had Reba not moved on to working on her next album this may have become the fourth single. This song could be compared to songs such as Fancy and The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, both of which Reba has covered on previous albums and released as singles, as like them we have a character doing what they feel is right to protect someone they love no matter what the cost. From this it I must admit that it is a shame that we never got the chance to see if this song could have become a second number one from the album.
Our final song is I’ll Have What She’s Having (Writers: Jimmy Melton, Georgia Middleman), which is a light and up-tempo song. After two powerful songs it is nice to have a fun one; however I am not sure that this is the best song to finish off with. Personally I would have put it before Over You and Maggie Creek Road and finish with them. The song is about a woman who sees a couple happily dancing and wishes she could have what the other woman has – a good man to make her light up and smile too. She does give us a great note to finish off with though, which does make one wish to hear more. From this maybe it could be said that it is a good track to finish off with, but I am sure that finishing on Maggie Creek Road would have had a similar effect.
As mentioned in my previous review of All The Women I Am I personally feel that these two albums could have been combined. This album offers far more highlights than All The Women I Am did. Since there already lacks unity on this one adding in ten more tracks would not change that much. Both albums are good in their own right, however they may not quite compare to some of her older work. This is an album which gives a greater taste of what Reba’s work is like, and shows how with more time and effort she can release a great album. At times it may seem like she is trying to fit in with current popular US country artists such as Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert; however I prefer to see it as adapting so that she remains relevant whilst still holding what makes her uniquely her.