Reba McEntire

Have I Got a Deal for You

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During its first decade, Reba McEntire's career had a "two steps forward, one step back" quality to it, even though she kept doggedly progressing, year by year. In 1984, her two big steps forward came with her surprise win as Female Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association (CMA) awards and the release of her bid to join the new traditionalist movement, My Kind of Country. Her next album, Have I Got a Deal for You, released nine months later, constituted another step back, if only a slight one. On My Kind of Country, McEntire had eschewed the Nashville publishing houses for the most part to pick old songs previously recorded as LP tracks by the likes of Connie Smith and Faron Young, which she then sang as if she were Patsy Cline reincarnated. The topping on the cake was Harlan Howard's newly written song of divorce-in-the-making, "Somebody Should Leave." On Have I Got a Deal for You, McEntire, who co-produced the album with MCA label president Jimmy Bowen, went back to the publishers for new songs. She stuck to the traditional country arrangements, but with a bit more variation; leadoff track "I'm in Love All Over" was an up-tempo number in the style of the Bakersfield sound, for example, while "I Don't Need Nothin' You Ain't Got" was given a Western swing treatment. The trouble was that even a newly minted CMA recipient couldn't find strong songs. The title tune and first single was one of those metaphors taken too far in which Nashville songwriters specialized, and elsewhere McEntire was reduced to mouthing overused clich├ęs in songs like "Red Roses (Won't Work Now)." Another mistake was that she dared to do some writing herself, although her "Only in My Mind," which actually got to number five in the country charts, demonstrated that she had absorbed the lesson of "Somebody Should Leave" in trying to come up with songs that addressed the viewpoint of contemporary women. It was also disheartening that, just after having staked her claim as the leading female new traditionalist, she was already backsliding. There were no strings on Have I Got a Deal for You and Johnny Gimble's fiddle was still prominent, along with Weldon Myrick's steel guitar. But the closing track, "Don't Forget Your Way Home," still sounded like an adult contemporary pop ballad, albeit one sung with McEntire's distinctive Oklahoma twang. Have I Got a Deal for You was hardly a disaster, but it was not the album to consolidate the advance McEntire had made with My Kind of Country, much less push her career further.

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