Sunday, 29 July, 2007 11:34 AM
Country Ambassador Reba McEntire
Returns to Her Roots
BY JIM HAGANS / CMA
McEntire & Kelly Clarkson perform at the Nightly Concert at
LP Field during the 2007 CMA Music Festival. McEntire & Clarkson's
duet will appear in the ABC special, "CMA Music Festival: Country's
Night To Rock" on July 23.
Deborah Evans Price
2007 CMA Close Up News Service
Country Music superstar
Reba McEntire is excited about returning to the stage and the studio
this year. She's working on a duets album and is hitting the road
this summer on her "Key to the Heart" tour, sponsored
by Whirlpool on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.
One of the performances
she anticipated the most was during CMA Music Festival on June 7
in Nashville. Kelly Clarkson joined McEntire on stage at CMA Music
Festival to perform two songs - "Does He Love You" and
their recent duet single, "Because of You," which will
be featured on the Reba Duets album. Fans can catch their performance
on summer's hottest TV special "CMA Music Festival: Country's
Night to Rock," which airs Monday, July 23 (9-11PM/ET) on the
ABC Television Network. The special will feature heart-warming stories
and riveting musical performances. Artists appearing include Jason
Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Sara
Evans, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley,
Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Sugarland, Taylor Swift,
Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and more.
McEntire has fond memories
of her early appearances at CMA Music Festival, when she was an
unknown redhead from Oklahoma.
"What I remember
best is sitting there at the PolyGram/Mercury booth for about two
hours, signing autographs," she recalled with a laugh. "One
time Mama was there with me, and I had my little Sharpies in front
of me and my little stack of pictures. Nobody was coming over, and
finally this man and woman looked up at my name over my head and
looked at me. Mama said, 'Get ready! Get ready!' They walked over
to me and I said, 'Can I help you?' And they said, 'Do you know
where the bathroom is?' That was my introduction to the CMA Music
Of course, since that
auspicious debut McEntire has become one of Country Music's most
accomplished entertainers. She's sold more than 49 million albums
and scored 33 No. 1 hits, among them such signature tunes as "Whoever's
in New England," "Somebody Should Leave" and "For
My Broken Heart." Her trophy case includes seven CMA Awards,
two GRAMMYs and a slew of other awards.
McEntire made her Broadway
debut in 2001's "Annie Get Your Gun" and impressed the
New York theater crowd, winning both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics
Circle Awards. Her acting chops and comedic timing also served her
well during six seasons of "Reba," which she credits with
bolstering her skills in many areas.
"I loved working
with all the cast and crew of the 'Reba' show," she said. "We
became a tight-knit, well-oiled machine! I loved the experience.
It was one of the best six years of my life. We're all still friends
and stay in touch with each other."
McEntire returns to the
stage as Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" at the Hollywood
Bowl in Los Angeles on Aug. 3, 4 and 5. Still, her focus has shifted
back to the studio, where she has been working on Reba Duets for
MCA Nashville, set for release in the fall. In addition to the Clarkson
duet, the album will include performances with Kenny Chesney, Ronnie
Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Faith Hill, Carole
King, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Justin Timberlake and Trisha Yearwood.
Some of the guests on
the new duets album will surprise McEntire fans, including Timberlake,
with whom she recorded what she described as "a Celtic ballad,
a beautiful love song" that Timberlake wrote with Matt Morris,
son of veteran Country artist Gary Morris. She is particularly excited
about the song she found to perform with Henley. "It's brand
new," she said. "It was a song that I fell in love with
and he said 'yes' to it, which was a thrill because I've always
been a huge fan of Don Henley."
"Working with Reba
and her team was a real pleasure," Henley said. "The session
was very professional and yet very casual and low-key. Reba is from
small-town Oklahoma and I'm from small-town Texas, so we share a
cultural heritage that creates a comfort and a mutual understanding.
"Singing with her,
of course, is the icing on the cake," he continued. "We
were actually singing with the musicians playing live in the studio
rather than with a prerecorded track, which always adds a little
bit of extra emotion. There was also a pleasant surprise because
two of the musicians happened to be my old friends, [bassist] Lee
Sklar and [drummer] Russ Kunkel, neither of whom I had seen in some
time. There was even some barbecue. It was a good day."
For Tony Brown, who co-produced
the album with McEntire, watching every artist's reaction to working
with her was a special treat. "All of them just loved to hear
Reba sing," he said. "She just blows them away. It was
fun watching the respect on their faces, and I loved seeing Reba
sort of bask in that."
The project also reunited
McEntire with Dunn, with whom she penned a new tune for the album.
"A bunch of us had dinner together in Vegas a few months ago,"
Dunn explained. "Reba told me that she was thinking about recording
a duets record and asked if I would write a song and sing it with
her. I told her that I would, under the condition that she would
write it with me and wear Wrangler jeans and a rodeo buckle when
we recorded it. She has a great sense of humor, but I'm not sure
she thinks I'm as funny as I do."
The song they created,
"Does the Wind Still Blow in Oklahoma," was as much fun
for Dunn to record as to write with his longtime friend. "She's
a stylist," he insisted. "No one else on Earth sounds
like her. I have a great deal of respect for what she's accomplished.
She gave me and Kix [Brooks] the opening spot on our first major
tour. She was on fire and she sold out every place she played. Years
later we toured again, as co-headliners. I will always be grateful
to her and Narvel [Blackstock, McEntire's husband and manager]."
In addition to all these
facets of her career, McEntire has been involved since 2005 with
creating a line of women's clothing available at Dillard's stores
and online at www.rebawear.com. Last year she expanded the endeavor
to include bedding and home products. "We have comforters,
shams, pillows and bedspreads, valances and curtains, sheets and
now everything for the bath: towels, shower curtains, soap dishes,
toothbrush holders and that kind of thing," she said enthusiastically.
"Narvel and I love the creative side of the clothes, bed and
bath. It's a lot of fun - one more thing we get to do together."
Her goal is to create
clothes for women's busy lifestyles and changing bodies. "I
want them to wear well and have great quality material and stretch
in them," she said. "You can grow with them and they will
grow on you. I fluctuate on my weight five pounds here and there.
Sometimes they're tight on me and sometimes a little bit looser,
but I want them to go with me when I fluctuate in weight. A little
bit of Spandex in everything is important."
One impact of this diversity
in her interests has been to draw new listeners to Country Music.
She admitted that people have told her, "I don't like Country
Music but I like yours," to which she responded, "Well,
you ought to listen to more Country Music. I think you'd like it."
Still, she downplays
the role she continues to play in growing the genre. "A lot
of people in Country Music today are reaching out to other people,"
she said. "If I've helped, I sure am tickled to do it. I said
from the beginning that I'll carry the banner of Country Music forever
and be proud to do it. I said it then and I love doing it now."
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