HOT TALK: Reba and Trisha’s New Albums

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

Reba Promises “Emotional” Album, Says She May Tour in 2004
Before she went in to pick up her Career Achievement Award last week from the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame people, Reba McEntire spoke to reporters about her upcoming album. “We’ve got our 12 songs,” she said. “It’s going to be a very emotional album.” Later she told Hot Talk that she thought at least five of the songs would be good singles, although she and her producers, Norro Wilson and Buddy Cannon, have not picked the lead single yet. There’s no one theme to the album, she added, “It’s a duke’s mixture.” McEntire hasn’t toured since 2001, but she said she might do so next year. Of her Career Achievement honor, she said, “I don’t feel I’m anywhere near through. I hope this is not a bad omen.”

Trisha Talks About Next Album, Co-writing With Garth
Tall, trim and apparently in the best of spirits, Trisha Yearwood also spent some time with the media before joining Sara Evans to sing their tribute to McEntire. Yes, she has started on a new album, and yes, she and Garth Brooks have been writing songs together. “I’ve been in the studio [with producer Garth Fundis] just last week for a couple of days,” she reported. “We’re just kind of going in and taking our time. It’s been tougher [to find songs] this time than ever before. They’re coming, but it’s slow.” Besides finding songs she likes and believes in, Yearwood admitted to another problem in putting together the album. “The biggest challenge is not to overthink it. … I’ve never been off the radio for this length of time.” On the matter of co-writing with Brooks, she said, “He and I have written some things — but nothing yet so far that’s going to be on the record.” She’s also trying her hand with other writers. “I believe there’s potential there,” she said. “I think I have something to say. … If it’s not for this album, then maybe one down the road. … I don’t have a time frame [for the album]. It will probably be out next spring, if I’m lucky.”

Yearwood seemed more eager to praise McEntire than talk about herself. She said that in 1991, not long after her first single came out, she was invited to perform on the Country Music Association awards show. That evening, she was in a dressing room with several other performers, when she saw a floral arrangement with her name on it. Thinking it must be from her parents, she picked up the card and read, “Welcome to your first CMA. Reba.” “She’s a star,” Yearwood stressed, “I’m a chick singer.” She’s also a kidder. I’ve known her since she was an intern at MTM Records back in the late 1980s. When it came my time for a question, I started to ask, ‘Who are you co-writing with besides Garth?” But I got only “Who are you …” out before she chirped brightly, “I’m Trisha Yearwood.” (By the way, she’s writing with Leslie Satcher and may link up with Pat Alger.)

We didn’t learn until later that Brooks had come to see her perform.

Teddy Gentry Shepherding Band
Hot Talk cornered Alabama’s Teddy Gentry at the Our Country premiere to ask if he was producing any acts while he wasn’t on tour. He said he was working with a band in Muscle Shoals and hoping to generate some label interest.

Sony Confirms Lambert Signing
A spokeswoman for Sony Music confirms the rumor carried here last week that Nashville Star’s Miranda Lambert is signing to one of the Sony labels. “They’re finalizing it now,” she says.

Leering in the Promiseland, or IMAXed Out
If country stars are going to keep doing this red-carpet thing, they’re going to have to learn to sweep — as in “Let us sweep past these peasants before they accost us with their insufferable gestures of affection.” I stood by the ropes outside the Opry Mills IMAX Theater in Nashville Wednesday evening (June 25) and watched the stars arriving for the premiere of Our Country, and I swear to you not a one of them swept by me. They ambled. They sauntered. They strolled. A few slunk or edged by. But there was not one sweep in the whole lot of them. Even the regal Amy Grant, who surely was born to sweep, dawdled along companionably with hubby Vince Gill.

Nor was there that formality of attire one expects of a premiere. Gill wore a Hawaiian shirt. Ricky Skaggs favored a light-colored suit, Randy Scruggs a dark one. Eric Heatherly was cloaked in a bespangled jacket that screamed “Tequila overdose!” Novelist and songwriter Alice Randall scurried about in a black gown with a long, diaphanous wrap. (My notes on Crystal Gayle’s finery are undecipherable, the only word legible being “delicious.”) It was all very eclectic and so Nashville.

As to the movie itself, I trust you’ve read by now Chet Flippo’s flinty appraisal in his Nashville Skyline column. If not, you must do so straightaway. Nowhere else will you find a more lyrical appreciation of Lee Ann Womack’s bosom. I guess, though, the sheer acreage of it displayed across the vast IMAX screen had a more mellowing effect on me than it did on Flippo. I was inclined to forgive the historical lapses and musical anomalies in exchange for the breathtaking aerial shots of Ireland, the Grand Canyon, New York City and the aforesaid bosom. What I could not forgive, however, was having to sit through yet another earnest caterwauling of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Next to the abysmally ironic “Amazing Grace,” this has become the most annoying song of our age. No good can come from ever recording it again.

Performing in the movie — although often only in snippets of songs — are Trace Adkins, Gary Allan, Bill Anderson, Jessica Andrews, Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Sara Evans, Billy Gilman, Hal Ketchum, the Kinleys, Patty Loveless, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, SheDaisy, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Pam Tillis, the Whites, the Wilkinsons and Trisha Yearwood (“Will the Circle Be Unbroken”); Guy Clark, Radney Foster, Kathy Mattea, Roger McGuinn, Leigh Nash, Dolly Parton and Kim Richey (“Turn, Turn, Turn”); Marty Stuart (“City of New Orleans”); Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Glen Duncan, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Jo-El Sonnier and Marty Stuart (“Rawhide/Foggy Mountain Breakdown”); Crystal Gayle, Loretta Lynn and the Lynns (“Keep on the Sunny Side”); Dwight Yoakam (“Never No Mo’ Blues”); Jessi Alexander, Kevin Denney, Little Jimmy Dickens, Sonya Isaacs, Brad Martin, the Melvin Sloan Dancers, Connie Smith and Porter Wagoner (Grand Ole Opry sequence); Alan Jackson (“Hey Good Lookin’”); Martina McBride (“Walkin’ After Midnight”); Asleep at the Wheel and Lyle Lovett (“You’re From Texas”); Eric Heatherly (“Breathless”); Alabama (“Sixteen Tons”); Vince Gill (“How Great Thou Art”); Jo Dee Messina (“My Own Kind of Hat”); and Lee Ann Womack (“Living in the Promiseland”).

Would I pay to see it again? You bet. I love those aerial shots.

Have I Got a Song for You?
Are you in the market for a Music Row epiphany? Here’s one. A friend tells me she emerged from a hair salon the other day to see an elderly man lying still in the middle of a busy Nashville street. She rushed to his aid while someone made the requisite call that quickly brought the cops, an ambulance and a fire truck. Individually and collectively, these minions of mercy discovered that the man had a nasty cut on the back of his head and a bottle of whisky at his side. Slowly, the fellow regained consciousness. Someone asked him if he knew what year it was, and when he ventured 2000, they concluded that was close enough. Once he regained his senses (or enough of them), he said he didn’t want to go to the hospital but would appreciate a ride home. One by one, the cops, the medics and the firemen declined to act as his chauffeurs. So my friend volunteered. She had hardly driven away from the scene when the victim informed her that he was a songwriter and record producer, and invited her up to his apartment to hear his demos. She settled for his business card.

Now do you see why you’ve got to come to Nashville if you want a career in country music? You’re competing with fanatics. Then there’s the story about the dying songwriter who requests that his demos be played at his funeral — just in case.

I don’t just read your letters, I resonate with them until I achieve closure. Try me at

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to