Reba McEntire was recently honored by the Academy of Country Music with a well-deserved Career Achievement Award. She also will be hosting the 47th Academy of Country Music Awards. Among her many contributions to the world of country music are a long list of duets. Here are my all-time Top 5:
5) “Every Other Weekend” w/ Kenny Chesney (2008, MCA Nashville)
For some reason, only 38 of Reba’s 45 music videos are on her VEVO channel. “Every Other Weekend” isn’t one of them, (and it’s not available from Kenny Chesney either) so thanks to the fan who put 1:34 of it on YouTube.
The presentation here is easy to overlook. No bombastic vocal runs, no high-strung production… just a profoundly sad tale of divorced spouses who now realize what they lost when they split up, but keep it to themselves thinking the other has moved on. They only see each other Every Other Weekend when exchanging the kids, each ex-spouse never knowing that the other weeps for reconciliation.
Unrequited love at both ends.
Powerful in its understatement and heart-wrenching in its delivery, “Every Other Weekend” adds depth and diversity to Reba’s duet repetoire.
4) “The Heart Won’t Lie” w/ Vince Gill (1993, MCA Nashville)
Another classic mini-movie… this time with a military theme.
It reminds me of “An Officer And A Gentleman” — only without Richard Gere and Debra Winger. Also without anyone hanging themselves in the bathtub, or drill sergeants yelling “May-oh-naaise!!”
But then again, that’s me.
We find out midway thru the video that in civilian life Reba and Vince had dated, and now that Vince is Reba’s drill sergeant, well… go watch it if you haven’t yet.
Kenny Rogers was to be the duet partner on “The Heart Won’t Lie,” but Kenny wasn’t available so Reba recorded it solo and Vince was dubbed in later. CMT has it listed as #18 on its all-time list of the Top 100 Country Duets.
3) TIE – “If You See Him/If You See Her” w/ Brooks & Dunn (1998, MCA Nashville)
An musical – and marketing – event if there ever was one.
This track was a joint venture between two of the planet’s biggest record companies — MCA and Arista — to launch new CD releases for both Reba (If You See Him) and Brooks & Dunn (If You See Her).
Contrived? You betcha. But on this song the talent rises above the contrivance.
Too bad neither album was as memorable as this duet — only Kix & Ronnie’s “How Long Gone” stayed popular much beyond the turn of the millennium. Although Reba’s “Wrong Night” may well be the best Shoulda-Been-A-Hit of her career.
3) TIE – “Cowboys Don’t Cry” w/Brooks & Dunn (2009, Arista Nashville)
This one’ll leave you with a lump in your throat.
Our two superstars, now having logged a combined 50+ years of hit-making, come together again to show all the young ‘uns how it’s done.
Although “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” was originally just Brooks & Dunn by themselves, Ronnie plainly admitted to the website Country Standard Time that Reba was the song’s inspiration.
“I had just spent time writing the song on Reba’s Duets record, “Does the Wind Still Blow in Oklahoma,” and when he sat down with “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” co-writer Terry McBride, Dunn said, “I was thinking of Reba when I wrote it and how she grew up.”
Reba’s father and grandfather were both champion steer ropers.
So the song exists as both Kix & Ronnie by themselves, and as a duet with Reba. It also stands as Brooks & Dunn’s 41st — and final — trip to the Top Ten.
2) “Because Of You” w/ Kelly Clarkson (2007, MCA Nashville)
Remakes are a tough thing. Get it wrong and you come off like a hi-rent karaoke act.
But our ACM honoree got this one right. Teaming up with a Pop star who’d just put American Idol in the rear-view mirror with the Breakaway album was, at least in theory, a risky move.
The difference I hear in the two versions is a tone of anger in Kelly’s original vocal, most notable on the final reprise. In contrast, I find the tone on the duet to be one of desperation and resignation.
Here’s one case where both versions work equally well… for different reasons.
1) “Does He Love You” w/ Linda Davis (1993, MCA Nashville)
Some songs are written and then later in the process become duets. “Cowboys Don’t Cry,” “The Heart Won’t Lie” and “Because Of You” fit this description.
Other songs are simply born to be duets. They won’t work any other way. “Does He Love You” is example A.
Released in the fall of ’93, when Reba was at a peak period (one of many) in her career, “Does He Love You” was an event — complete with over-the-top vocals, a video in which Reba blasts her cheating husband and romantic nemesis to smithereens… or does she? And what’s Rob Reiner doing at the end of the video?
You’re gonna have to watch it and decide for yourself… hmmmm…
The 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, hosted by Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, will take place April 1 at 8pm EST/PST on CBS!