Reba McEntire: Reba in Concert

The flame-haired McEntire has always been one of the gutsiest of country music women, taking chances on songs that don’t naturally fall within the Nashville framework (Aretha Franklin’s ”Respect,” for example) and presenting a sassier persona than any female country personality since Patsy Cline. So it’s surprising that she plays it so safe in this live performance, Reba in Concert, (taped in October 1990, in Austin, Tex.), tossing off the familiar songs, waiting until the second half to try anything daring (unfortunately, it’s her a cappella version of Patsy Cline’s ”Sweet Dreams,” an abominable excess of trills and curlicues), and padding her between-song prattle with dull details about how she got back into shape after childbirth. On the other hand, McEntire as a presence is a wonder: spunky, funny, iron-willed, with enough vocal power to knock the sparrows out of the trees. For that reason — and for the fact that the backup band here is the one that was killed last March in a plane crash — Reba in Concert has a certain magnetism. Still, it’s more a record of their time together than a representation of McEntire at her best. B-

Reba McEntire: Reba in Concert
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