In 2008, singer Randy Houser's debut album Anything Goes produced a pair of hits in the title track and the stomping rocker "Boots On." That collection also contained a song called "Back to God" that Houser wrote with Dallas Davidson and performed live on occasion but never released to radio. That track, with its call for spiritual renewal, was one of Reba McEntire's favorites from the album.
"When Randy didn't release it as a single, I thought, hmm, maybe someday I get to do that," says the singer, who has recorded her own version and released it as the first single from her new gospel double album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope. The song's deeply spiritual video is also out today.
McEntire's version tones down some of the harder edges of Houser's original, but leaves the basic arrangement and passionate, pleading sentiment fully intact. The message of "Back to God" – handing things over to a higher power in the face of grief and struggle – was one she felt like fit with her many themes of faith on Sing It Now, which bundles 10 classic hymns with 10 more contemporary songs.
"I had to make it different because his [version] was so good," says McEntire. "So we got it on there, but it's a great song! Everybody was saying, 'Oh my gosh, we need this, we need this song right now.' Well, we've always needed this song."
In the "Back to God" video, filmed by director Mason Dixon in the Nashville area, scenes of McEntire alone in a sanctuary are interspersed with shots of different people experiencing profound loss and crises of faith. The thing that ultimately unites them is their collective experience in church, where they start to heal.
"They have a common goal: get closer to god. Talk about god. Fellowship," says McEntire. "So when they get in the church, everybody has that oneness, that feeling of yes, we're a group. Small group, large group, doesn't matter."
Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope is out February 3rd and includes collaborations with Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood, as well as McEntire's mother and sisters. McEntire has also been cast in an upcoming show created by Desperate Housewives mastermind Marc Cherry, an as-yet-untitled hour-long "Southern gothic soap opera" that will air on ABC.