November 18, 1996 12:00 PM

Reba McEntire

At some point in McEntire’s 21-year career—around the time her hair literally became one of the biggest things in Nashville—the singer lost her way. She abandoned the quiet fire of earlier hits like 1981’s “Today All Over Again” and 1986’s “Whoever’s in New England” in favor of one pop-flavored crossover bid after another. (Her recent so-bad-it’s-camp cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” actually made the Top 10 on Billboard’s dance chart.)

Perhaps inspired by a newly shorn coif, McEntire downsizes her approach on her latest album. Gone, for the most part, are the hammy affectations that have plagued her recent work. And when the drums roll and the steel guitars rock on toe-tappers like “How Was I to Know” and “She’s Callin’ It Love,” she resists the urge to over-sing. Not that McEntire has quit branching out—at times the former ballad queen gets friskier than Wynonna—but for the first time in aeons, she doesn’t bury her down-home roots. (MCA)

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