Heart To Heart, by Reba McEntire
Released in 1981, Heart To Heart was the fourth studio album, apparently, for country singer Reba McEntire. My own relationship with Reba McEntire’s career as a musician has been a rather straightforward one so far. I have respected her as an artist but not gone out of my way to listen to any of her albums nor can I remember offhand many of her songs by name, even though I am sure I grew up listening to quite a few of them. I was invited to rankdown a couple of her albums from the 1980s, and that gives me the chance to actually become more acquainted not only with Reba’s singles but also her deeper album tracks. Is it a worthwhile experience? Let’s see.
The album begins with “Indelibly Blue,” a lovely but sad song about being reminded of a past relationship with somewhat ghostly instrumentation. “Ease The Fever” calls upon a beloved person to give her the chance to ease the fever of love and erase his pain, with some interesting backing vocals. “There Ain’t No Love” is a sweet attempt to see one’s current relationship as being the only one for the narrator, with no replacement, based on affection and communication and encouragement. “How Does It Feel To Be Free” returns to a sadder and more melancholy tone where the narrator questions a former partner about how it is like for him for them to be apart in an austere piano ballad. “Only You (And You Alone)” offers a cover that combines McEntire’s appealing voice with some gentle strings and more of that somewhat ghostly instrumentation we saw earlier. “Today All Over Again” reflects on the downside of somewhat obsessive love where the relationship has ended, where he has obviously let go and she hasn’t. “Gonna Love Ya (Tell The Cows Come Home” offers a creative and gentle take on being committed to love someone forever, and is a nice change of pace from the more languid tone of some of the previous songs. “Who?” offers an upbeat discussion from the narrator about who is able to love her partner like she can, where the music is somewhat at odds with the lyrics. “Small Two-Bedroom Starter” tells a narrative of a little house and its complicated ownership history given the lives of the people who live in it and its combination of intricate narrative detail and the melancholy pull of stories of dashed hopes. “Love By Love” closes the album with a positive look at the uplifting power of love on the life of someone who is loved.
Despite the fact that this album is a collection of ten rather similar songs about love and relationships, my feelings towards this album are somewhat complicated. On the one hand, the album itself is clearly a collection of songs, probably written by Nashville professional songwriters, without a thought of connecting the songs together as part of a coherent narrative. This cannot really be blamed on the singer, who provides a convincing and lived in feel to the songs she is given, whether they celebrate love, seek defiantly to hold onto it, or long for its return in gloomy and somewhat obsessive ways. The songs themselves vary mainly by being happy or sad, or through the little touches of instrumentation and production that distinguish the songs from each other. Still, even if this album is a bit less than the sum of its achingly beautiful parts, this is an album that deserves to be a lot better known than it is. At least a couple of the songs show some genuinely worthwhile creativity despite the limited thematic range of the material as a whole.