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Reba McEntire comes through on ‘Stronger Than the Truth’

Courtesy of iTunes.

Country music veteran Reba McEntire has released her fifth studio album this decade, “Stronger Than the Truth.”

Truth be told, I’m more familiar with McEntire’s personality than her musicianship. Even with this ignorance, I’ve still had an overall positive perception of her. I love how she portrays herself as a goofy Southern-fried redhead with a little spunk and a lot of personality.

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Since her debut in the late 1970s, McEntire has been incredibly active recording at least two albums every decade. Given this is an album made by someone who’s on the latter half of their musical career, I expected many of the songs to be pretty easy going and mature, which I was fine with, but how would this go as a full-length listening experience?

Rest assured, there aren’t any of the awful tropes of contemporary bro-country, but I still worried about the cleanliness of the production. I hoped some of the rootsier and more organic elements of traditional country music would prevail for the majority of the album.

Sober listening

The opener, “Swing All Night Long With You”, is a pretty standard country track talking about rekindling old flames. The piano chords in the intro are surprisingly jazzy. It feels much more textured and organic than what you would typically find in a country top 40.

“Storm in a Shot Glass” is a quirky song with McEntire urging fellow bar patrons to avoid a girl binge-drinking and pouring out her emotions after a recent break-up. The guitars are a lot punchier and more electric.

“Your Heart” is minimal and uninteresting in the beginning, but it develops pretty well towards the backend.

McEntire has some impressive moments vocally on “In His Mind,” but the minimal and generic instrumentation does almost nothing to support her. In addition, the tone feels overacted even by country ballad standards.

Stronger Than the Truth” can be found on Spotify and Apple Music.

One smoke session later…

The chord progression on “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain” is pretty average, but the lyrics act as a legitimate expression of heartbreak while simultaneously being a touching homage to one of country music’s greatest female legends. 

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“Cactus in a Coffee Can” is a cover originally by Melonie Cannon. It tells the story of a woman reconnecting with her biological mother right before her death and using her ashes in a coffee can as a token of memory.

“No U in Oklahoma” has some funny wordplay in the lyrics with McEntire making all these connections between letters and states. The guitars are plunky and playful, perfectly complimenting the dark, but lighthearted lyricism.

“The Bar’s Getting Lower” is a depressing reality check about a woman who realizes she needs to lower her standards as she ages if she wants to avoid being alone for the rest of her life. McEntire has some impressive vocal moments with her vibrato.

Some of the instrumentation is actually kind of psychedelic on “Freedom.” McEntire’s triumphant delivery is also pretty emotional. The chorus is punchy and explosive as hell. It feels like real America.

The album’s not as one-note and easygoing as I would have expected. There are some definite emotional peaks and valleys that feel relatable and realistic. Some of the instrumentals are kind of lackluster, but even so, McEntire is usually able to salvage it with her dynamic voice.

Overall: 7/10

Favorite songs: “Freedom,” “Storm in a Shot Glass,” “The Bar’s Getting Lower,” “No U in Oklahoma,” “Swing All Night with You,” “Cactus in a Coffee Can”

Least favorite song: “In His Mind”

Henry Netherland can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.

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