Musikalischer Mittwoch: Whoever’s In New England

After a solid week of my playlist consisting of no English language songs other than a faint smattering of Corb Lund and a Nanci Griffith tune or two (everything else has been either Spanish, German, Norwegian, Swedish or Hindi–the U.N. barfed on my iPod), out of the blue, this classic rolled up on my playlist.

In case you’ve completely missed it, I’m a big Reba fan.  Have been since probably the age of 6 or 7.  And “Whoever’s In New England” was critical to that early addiction.  The time before I knew this song is just a kind of hazy memory.  I know from checking that apparently this was not part of the soundtrack of my existence prior to 1986, but all that time before is just so fuzzy I’m not sure much of it matters.

It’s a watershed song in the history of Reba.  The album went platinum, the song was number 1 and it was her first music video.  In any retrospective collection of Reba hits?  This song is there.

And after not having heard it in so long that I’m rather ashamed, I understand why.  It’s a good song.  It showcases Reba’s voice and particular style in a way her earlier songs hadn’t quite done.  The arrangement is undoubtedly country, but not in-your-face as so many songs can be.  It’s good, but you almost forget it’s there because it really does what it needs to do:  stays out of the way of the voice.  And, of course, the voice is fantastic.  Since it was back in the day, Reba’s voice had a slightly “lighter” quality to it, and she doesn’t muddy that up with any vocal calisthenics (sistafriend’s pipes are awesome and I’m glad she displays the up and down control, but occasionally, I can do without the trills).  Here Reba manages to strike a balance of matter of fact and emotional that’s almost creepy.

And some of the lyrics? “When the icy wind blows through you / Remember that it’s me / Who feels the cold most of all….”  I have loved that line as long as I can remember.  In general, you’ve got to give it a nod because, well, you find another country song about Boston that’s done half as well?  (Other than when Reba did a cover of “Please Come to Boston” in 1995.)

And then there’s the the video.  The only thing this video is missing is Spencer and Hawk sprinting through the background in one of the Boston shots.  At one time, it would have been a simple enough video (albeit, one with a clear storyline–Reba’s been a good one for that from early on…up until CMT went all f’d up, but that’s another rant), but now it’s a time capsule of 80s goodness.  The clothes.  The cars.  Reba when she still had chipmunk front teeth AND THE PERMED MULLET.  Oh, it’s just beauty.  And how d’ya like the shots inside Boston’s Logan airport from way the hell back in the day when people without tickets could go all over the place (remember before security, kids?).

For those looking to educate themselves on the country genre, this is a must listen.  It marks the sharp up-tick in the career of someone prominent to the genre, was a key song in the swing back into more traditional country post 70s-early- 80s crossover, and any audio tour of country music just wouldn’t be complete without it.  Also, it’s awesome.

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