Album review: Sara Evans's 'Stronger'

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sara Evans Stronger

Country singer Sara Evans's latest album is just the sort of loosely autobiographical song cycle you might expect from someone who's recently gone through a difficult and much-publicized divorce. Evans had a hand in writing half of the CD's 10 tracks, which run the gamut of emotion, from anticipation to regret, that inevitably follows a breakup. "I'm done with hopin' that we can work it out," she sings on "A Little Bit Stronger," a pensive study in resiliency and the record's lead-off single. In "Desperately," a gospel-steeped number featuring a B-3 organ and a crisp backbeat, she declares every day a crossroad.

The lyrics rarely scratch below the surface - "Looks like Cupid just showed up," she later exults, referring to a budding romance - but Evans's voluptuous alto and unwavering conviction help compensate for the frequently lightweight sentiment. On some of the ballads, several of them flecked with banjo and mandolin, her purling vocals resemble those of Patty Loveless. On more rousing numbers, such as her cover of the Rod Stewart hit "My Heart Can't Tell You No," the interplay between Evans's soaring alto and Dan Dugmore's swooning pedal steel guitar recall Connie Smith's classic collaborations with steel great Weldon Myrick.

Regrettably, the otherwise terrific banjo-rocker "Anywhere" and another track or two are marred by guitar wankery and bombast on the bridges. The album nevertheless ends on a winning note, with a bluegrassy remake of Evans's 2001 smash "Born to Fly," featuring Jerry Douglas on Dobro, that proves that Evans is still in touch with her hard-country roots.

- Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks: "My Heart Can't Tell You No," "Born to Fly"

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