This project has been long overdue for this multi-talented, versatile entertainer. The mere fact that every artist contributing to this CD is either a current giant or a legend in the Country Music industry speaks volumes about Barbara's influence in the genre.
Reba McEntire is a long-time friend and fan of Barbara's and performs her "signature" #1 hit from 1981, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool". She does a fine job on it giving it her own "Reba touch". However, I feel that Kenny Chesney is slightly misplaced in the part that George Jones originally performed in Barbara's version. I think the track would've been better suited having a modern-day legend like George Strait fill the part near the end. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Chesney fan - I just feel that he was not the right artist to place on this classic hit.
"Sleeping Single In A Double Bed", probably Barbara's second best-known hit, is performed by her protege, Terri Clark. During her 10+ year career in the "big leagues" of Country Music, Terri has touted Barbara as one of her main musical influences. She performs the song with her own band and does the song quite well. I was just expecting a little more substance from her since she is a self-proclaimed long time fan of Barbara's.
One of the best covers on the CD is LeAnn Rimes' version of Barbara's cross-over hit from 1979, "If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right". LeAnn gives it just the right sensual reading it needs to get the point of the song across to the listener without overdoing it. Reportedly, Barbara hand-picked LeAnn to record this specific track for the album, and I think she couldn't have made a better choice.
Brad Paisley performs a straight-ahead country interpretation of "In Times Like These", as does Dierks Bentley on "Fast Lanes and Country Roads" and up-and-comer Blaine Larsen on "I Wish That I Could Fall In Love Today". All three get an A+ for updating these songs with their own individual styles without losing sight of Barbara's style lying underneath, while Gretchen Wilson's version of Barbara's first major hit, 1973's "The Midnight Oil", doesn't stray too far from the original in execution, but seems to lack Barbara's warm, yet emotional delivery.
Lorrie Morgan delivers a raw, acoustic reading of the Top 20 hit from 1976, "That's What Friends Are For" and knocks it right out of the park! She conveys a lot of the emotion and sadness that Barbara portrayed in her recording 30 years ago. On the other hand, Randy Owen's take on the 1980 #1 hit, "Years" is not quite what I expected. I like Randy's voice normally, and I'm a HUGE Alabama fan. I just feel this song would have been better delivered by a female vocalist like Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood or Lee Ann Womack. Not that his version is not good - just my opinion.
Being a big Sara Evans fan, I may be a little biased on this opinion, but I think her "modernized" version of the 1980 Top 5 "Crackers" is well-done! Barbara herself has said that at the time in 1980, she thought the song was great, but feels listening to it now sounds a little "cutesy and SESAME STREETish". She slowed the tempo down a bit and "fattened" the bass up more from the original. I think Sara could have a BIG Country hit if it were to be released as a single since sadly much of today's generation is unfamiliar with Barbara's body of work and, even MORE sadly, who she even is!
CeCe Winans' cover of Barbara's Grammy-winning gospel track "He Set My Life To Music" is the PERFECT closer to this project! It sums up Barbara and her career in one song, and Winans' version of this great song sent chills through me the first time I heard it, and at least deserves another Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Performance (if not to win!)
Overall, this project is very well-produced and as I said above, long overdue.
Now if we can just get the rest of Barbara's work re-released onto CD from her years with MCA from 1975 to 1986. Even a Box Set would be great! Let's give this beloved legend the respect she deserves and expose her talent to future generations of country music lovers and artists.