Reba McEntire: It’s ‘Always the Right Time to Give Back to God’

The country singer, out with a double-disc album, is connecting anew with fans — and for good reason

by Alanna Nash | Updated 15 Mar 2017 at 7:54 PM

“Jesus Loves Me” was the first song Reba McEntire ever sang in public. She was four years old — and received a nickel for her trouble.

The Oklahoma native is still singing that simplest song of religious expression, offering it as the first track and the only a cappella song on her new double-disc album, “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope.” The collection devotes Disc 1 to traditional hymns, and Disc 2 to contemporary tracks of hope — 20 songs in all, with a brief reprise of “Jesus Loves Me” rounding out the second half.

The album hugged the top spot on the country and Christian charts for two weeks, and is still selling strong. Its success “helped heal my heart,” she has said.

Such luminaries as Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood, and the Isaacs help get out the good news. And McEntire’s mother and sisters feature on the old-timey, “I’ll Fly Away.”

“Mama, Susie, and Alice even came into the studio with me, all of us gathered around an old hymnal straight from the Chockie [Oklahoma] church,” the singer said in a statement promoting her latest album. “Music conjures up great memories and goes hand and hand with us McEntires.”

Her mother also helped her pen “I Got the Lord on My Side,” an upbeat song of praise.

The album hugged the top spot on the country and Christian charts for two weeks, and is still selling strong. Its success “helped heal my heart,” she has said.

McEntire, who has sold 56 million albums worldwide, holds the record — 13 — for the most No. 1 top country albums among female performers. She has been through some rough stuff in recent years, particularly her divorce from entertainment mogul Narvel Blackstock, which was not her idea.

Related: Reba McEntire: Fans Don’t Pay ‘Their Hard-Earned Money’ to Hear Politics

In times of trouble, Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

McEntire, who is blessed with an emotional and elastic soprano, sings as if she knows what the 16th U.S. president meant. In "Back to God," a big, heartfelt ballad in which she turns to her maker, she takes a broken heart and makes it into art.

"I've been asked a lot lately about why now was the right time to release this song," she said. "I think it is always the right time to give it back to Him, because we seem to mess things up on our own. We all need to just love each other more unconditionally, without judgment, because we can't do this on our own."

With "Sing it Now" — which kicks off the contemporary disc — McEntire deftly shows how the old hymns transitioned to modern Christian music through the years. On other songs, particularly "Angel on My Shoulder" and "Oh, Happy Day," she goes full-tilt modern with horns, big-voiced background singers, and bluesy underpinnings. The rambunctious saxophone outro on "Angel…" may seem a little over-the-top to some listeners, and sounds, in fact, like something out of the "Saturday Night Live" theme song.

Elsewhere, especially on "There is a God," McEntire is reflective, awed by nature and the pantheistic view of the universe.

McEntire's guardian angels have served her well on this CD, and even the most cursory fan will believe she means every word.

"Faith guides me on everything I do," she told Fox News not long ago. "I ask for guidance, I ask the Lord to give me wisdom when I speak, when I think, and I always try to be positive and say nice things and it gives me strength throughout every minute and every day."

"Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope" is proof.

Alanna Nash, an award-winning journalist, is the author of seven books, including four on Elvis Presley. She won the CMA's Media Achievement Award in 2004.

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