There's really no template for Reba McEntire to follow at this point. She's a star of a certain age -- 60, if you can believe it -- who's in the Country Music Hall of Fame but still has the drive to make radio-relevant music at a time when country airwaves skew spring break-ish. The singles from her last LP, 2010's All the Women I Am, seemed engineered to compete with a new generation, and the anxiousness showed. That makes it all the more satisfying to hear her sound so comfortable in her skin on Love Somebody.
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McEntire turns in lusty, emotionally committed performances throughout, letting one line catch in her throat and the next blaze with intensity. And these songs deserve it. Other than the overcooked blues-rocker "Until They Don't Love You" and the grandiose, Celtic-band meditation "Pray for Peace," she spends most of the album drawing out private agonies into the open and dwelling on the quiet struggles of crushed hearts trying to hang on to their humanity. What makes ballads like "She Got Drunk Last Night," "That's When I Knew" and "I'll Go On" even more affecting is the way their most vulnerable melodic moments reveal McEntire learning to use, and love, the changing textures of her voice.
This story originally appeared in the May 2 issue of Billboard.