Almost immediately, one can sense that there’s something inherently different about Reba’s album, Stronger Than the Truth (out April 5). It speaks to the soul in a way most modern country albums fail to. On each of the collection’s twelve tracks, the famous redhead flexes her impeccable vocal talent, her distinct voice wrapping itself around each syllable and emotion in a way only a master of the craft can do. While many of her younger contemporaries rely heavily on pop beats, collaborations, and cookie cutter lyrics, Reba truly strikes a different chord on this release.
Stronger Than the Truth is truly a standout in a sea of sameness that seems to envelop Nashville much of the time. The indisputable legend is stronger than ever here, with an album that is country to its core. From the opening strains of “Swing All Night With You,” it’s evident that this isn’t an album targeted at country radio. It’s an album targeted at country fans.
Since the earliest days of her long and storied career, Reba has been a captivating storyteller. There are few other singers who could’ve delivered “Fancy,” “The Night the Lights When Out in Georgia” or “Whoever’s New England” with the same charisma and conviction. On her new album, Reba steps effortlessly back into those types of narratives, and in an era laden with beer and back roads, it’s a welcome change of pace.
An immediate standout of the album is “Cactus in a Coffee Can,” a track that hearkens back to the heyday of the story song. Here, Reba sings of a chance encounter with a brokenhearted stranger on an airplane. While the song title may seem silly at a glance, the song is incredibly well-crafted and moving. “She started talking and pain poured out,” Reba sings of the girl named Elaina, whose mother gave her away on the day she was born. She admits that she searched for her for ten years, finding her when “she was almost gone.” “We had two weeks together, to laugh and to cry, two weeks to say hello and goodbye.”
Heartbreak is a common theme throughout Stronger Than The Truth, threading its way through songs like “The Clown,” “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain,” and “The Bar’s Getting Lower.” On the latter, Reba plays the role of a woman who’s giving up hope on finding true love, willing to settle for something less than the best to ease her loneliness. She was waiting for pink champagne, but as life passes by, she’s willing to lower the bar and settle for “well whiskey.”
On the piano-driven “The Clown,” written by Dallas Davidson, Hillary Lindsey, and James Slater, Reba is a woman forced to put on a brave face as life goes on around her after heartbreak. “So you paint a big smile on your face to cover that frown,” She sings of a relationship being ended in a crowded restaurant. “In that room full of jokers and jesters, sometimes you’re the clown.”
While the ballads here are powerful, there’s no shortage of sass on Stronger Than the Truth. There’s the album’s opening track, the snappy “No U in Oklahoma” and the up-tempo “Storm in Shot Glass.” On “Storm,” Reba tells the tale of a scorned woman drowning her sorrows in alcohol. “You better run for cover,” She warns. “She’ll just order another.”
The album’s penultimate track is the anthemic “Freedom,” most remnant of Reba’s “Love Revival,” with it’s Gospel-tinged country stomp. Here, Reba is strong and empowered, belting “Loving you feels like freedom” over soaring guitars. Here, she’s revealing it all, realizing that she’s come out on the other side, and is finally free. “I’ve searched high and low/ Been to hell and back/ Been a prisoner to my soul / And all I know is that/ The price of being free/ It don’t come cheap.”
The album ends on a sweet note, a simple piano-driven ballad that’s a letter of gratitude to her 91-year-old mother, Jacqueline. “I’ve been told I’m not enough by everyone but you,” Reba reveals to the listener. “You never gave up on me/ I’m here where I was always meant to be/ I never gave up/ ‘Cause you never gave up on me.”
While it would be easy for the 64-year-old songstress to rest on her laurels and release same-ish music or cave to contemporary trends in an attempt to maintain relevance, there’s none of that here. On Stronger Than the Truth, Reba is authentically Reba, and that’s really all country music really needs right now.
Reba McEntire, Stronger Than the Truth Track Listing:
1. “Swing All Night Long With You” (Sidney Cox, Jon Randall)
2. “Stronger Than the Truth” (Hannah Louise Blaylock, Autumn McEntire)
3. “Storm in a Shot Glass” (Mary Browder, Will Robinson, Leslie Satcher)
4. “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain” (Brandy Clark, Mark Narmore, Shelley Skidmore)
5. “Cactus in a Coffee Can” (Steve Seskin, Allen Shamblin)
6. “Your Heart” (Kellys Collins)
7. “The Clown” (Dallas Davidson, Hillary Lindsey, James Slater)
8. “No U in Oklahoma” (Reba McEntire, Ronnie Dunn, Donna McSpadden)
9. “The Bar’s Getting Lower” (Kellys Collins, Erin Enderlin, Liz Hengber, Alex Kline)
10. “In His Mind” (Reba McEntire, Liz Hengber, Tommy Lee James)
11. “Freedom” (Jay Brunswick, Tommy Cecil, Jaida Dreyer, John Pierce)
12. “You Never Gave Up on Me” (Billy Aerts, Burton Collins)
Stronger Than the Truth is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
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