CD review: Reba, "Duets"

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Reba McEntire arrives at the premiere of "Charlotte's Web" in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles in a Dec. 10, 2006 file photo. Billboard magazine has named country star Reba McEntire for its first "Woman of the Year" award. The magazine says the award coincides with its second annual Women in Music issue, which will be published in early October. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, file)

As a country singer who's achieved success on television, on Broadway and as an author, Reba McEntire has arguably achieved the broadest-based success of any Nashville artist of her generation. So, naturally, an album pairing her with other singers would cover as wide a territory as the many mountains she's scaled.

With "Duets," the big-voiced Oklahoma redhead does just that. Besides the expected country partners -- Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill and Rascal Flatts among them -- McEntire joins forces with everyone from pop stars Justin Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson to classic rocker Don Henley to veteran singer-songwriter Carole King.

To her credit, McEntire challenges herself by pairing with several strong female voices, and the settings only prove how exquisitely expressive and powerful her voice can be. She brings in Kelly Clarkson for a lush, countrified remake of "Because of You," trades verses with LeAnn Rimes on the emotional tour-de-force "When You Love Someone Like That," then matches up perfectly with Trisha Yearwood on the moody "She Can't Save Him," the latter about a lover realizing she can't make her partner stop destroying himself unless he recognizes his problem.

Still, the best moments are more subtle, as when Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn waltzes with her through the twangy "Does the Wind Still Blow in Oklahoma?" and when yet another Okie, Vince Gill, brings out McEntire's tender side on "These Broken Hearts."

-- The Associated Press

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