Reba McEntire has accomplished a lot during her 40+ year career. One thing she’s never done is a gospel album, until now. It’s something she’s always wanted to do, but never has despite recording songs before, like “Sky Full Of Angels” and releasing three Christmas albums. On Sing It Now: Songs Of Hope & Faith, McEntire comprises ten hymnals and ten contemporary songs to release a double disc that will take you to church.
While there isn’t a bad song on the set, dissecting 20 songs (22 on the Amazon Deluxe Edition) will take quite a while, so I’ll highlight some of my favorites. As one may expect with a gospel album, there’s a big choir presence throughout and it’s very warming! The choir has a voice of its own and those songs remind me of Sister Act when Whoopi Goldberg’s character modernized hymnals and brought the crowd to its feet.
McEntire co-produced the set with band member Doug Sizemore and Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus. McEntire requested DeMarcus’ presence on the record after hearing he produced Ronnie Dunn’s Tattooed Heart. DeMarcus’ style usually features loops, but not very many of Sing It Now’s songs have them which is exciting.
The album opens with the first song she ever performed in front of an audience, “Jesus Loves Me.” It was around four years old when her family was at Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo when she sang the song in a hotel lobby. The song is very traditional sounding with light percussion and instrumentation.
“Oh, How I Love Jesus” is a great six-eight bluesy number with contemporary production that brings new life to the song. Backed by a gospel choir, fiddle, organ and big drums, the song has a modern sound that will get your hands raising.
“Oh Happy Day” is a song that not many, including Reba herself, knows is an old hymn. Recommended by McEntire’s friend and fellow actress, Melissa Peterman, the song has a Sister Act-like sound with a big choir and even a saxophone that’s every welcoming! This would make a great video with Reba front and center of a church.
McEntire asked Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood to join her for “Softly And Tenderly,” another six-eight track that features light drums and instrumentation including a flute. The ladies harmonize perfectly. This would make for a great country single, although Reba’s gotten minimal airplay recently, so not sure how well it would do.
A song that McEntire was rumored to have recorded long before the project was announced, “God And My Girlfriends” is yet another six-eight mid-tempo track. In it she sings who she couldn’t live without either. A good fit as McEntire admits that both have been there for her during her divorce, moving, becoming her own manager and developing her own RBI (Reba’s Business, Inc.). A good song that could be a single and hopefully get more airplay than her last few.
“Hallelujah Amen” is a fun uptempo tune that isn’t necessarily a gospel song, but it fits the album. Another song with loops, but the song is nice addition to the album. A choir is featured again and McEntire’s vocals are strong. It could be a single as well and fit the country or Christian format.
“I Got The Lord On My Side” is very bluesy and quick. McEntire co-wrote the song with her mother Jackie who, along with her sisters Susie and Alice, sang backup for the song. It’s just a fun, uplifting tune that will get you feeling the spirit and clapping along with the track. Reba borrows some of Garth Brooks’ bandmates for it. Jimmy Mattingly is featured on fiddle and backup singers Robert Bailey and Vicki Hampton are part of the choir.
The lead single is “Back To God,” written by fellow country singer Randy Houser. It appears on Houser’s debut album, Anything Goes, but was never released as a single. It’s slower and fits radio’s current sound with loops. The lyrics teach the listener that God can turn each bad situation into a good one. Needless to say, everything happens for a reason.
Another standout track is “Angel On My Shoulder” which features hand claps and a brass choir. Very nice arrangement with instruments that aren’t used as much in commercial music. The lyrics speak of how an angel is always watching over you, no matter what.
Overall, Sing It Now is a great collection of hymns and contemporary songs that will get anyone in the spirit. Reba’s voice is stronger than ever and she feels very comfortable singing the gospel format. Not once did it feel like Reba was pushing anything. It all felt very natural. Beautiful arrangements for an eclectic bunch of songs.