Sara Evans started out as sort of a neo-traditionalist twangster, but soon came to symbolize the new wave of mega-overproduced soul-country-Nashville pop that dominated the country charts in the late 1990s and early '00s. Alas, she never really looked back: she was a great true-country singer, but I guess the synthetic stuff sells more. Anyway, here's a quick look at her work... That first record sure was fun!
Sara Evans "Three Chords And A Heartbreak" (RCA-Nashville, 1997)
OK, sure, given her eventual huge success as a Nashville Top 40 artist, it might be a little bit of a stretch to call this album "alt.country..." Still, Sara Evans' traditionalist throwback sound was certainly unique for Nashville back when this album first came out .. Sure, there, have been neo-traditionalists up the wazoo in recent decades, but on this record, Evans struck a peculiarly rural note, particularly in her gruff vocals, which bear a remarkable resemblance to Melba Montgomery... What's cooler still is that a couple of the songs on here were actually co-written by Montgomery, so the likeness was no mere coincidence! From and alt-y point of view, later albums were a bit of a letdown, drifting into sappier, poppier terrain, but this disc was pretty swell, and Evans is certainly an artist to keep an eye on...
Sara Evans "No Place That Far" (RCA, 1998)
On the opening tracks, Evans is still keeping it real, but the success of the overblown title track hit single, with its lavish, bombastic arrangments, spelled out the future for Evans. This disc is a nice midway ground between her rootsier days and the soul-drenched leanings of Y2K's "Born To Fly." Some great songwriting is in evidence, and plenty of comparatively restrained musicianship backing her up.
Sara Evans "Born To Fly" (BMG, 2000)
This is where Evans really loses it, at least as far as the trad crowd goes. This disc is packed with super-bombastic, overproduced neo-Nashville hokum... Evans (along with half of Nashville) went pop-soul koo-koo as the millennium turned. I guess this stuff sells, 'cause almost every song on here got peeled off as a single over the next couple of years, but it's really not Evans at her best. She's just so good when she sings real country ballads that it's disheartening to hear her lose all expressiveness and emotion as she strains to become one of those wailing, torturous, all-but-twangless, Celine Dion-wannabee, rock'n'popsters. It may make money, but it's not good music. Oh, well.
Sara Evans "Restless" (RCA, 2003)
(Produced by Sara Evans & Paul Worley)
Another overly-lavish, rock/pop tinged outing, featuring lofty lyrics, synthy, orchestral arrangements and wild, swooping, soul-ish vocals -- perhaps not as Celine Dion wannabee as Shania Twain or Faith Hill's latest, but still pretty disappointing. The title track is stuffed with psycho-babbly Oprahspeak, about there being "no boundaries" in life, and the like. It's all a bit much for me, but not overly dissimilar to her last album, which was also pretty florid and popped-out. Still, it seems like Evans is straining past her stylistic strengths, and would be better off just keeping things simple. Can't these country artists just play country anymore?
Sara Evans "Real Fine Place" (RCA, 2005)
Sara Evans "The Early Years" (E & S Records, 2007)
An interesting set of early demos, reissued in the wake of Evans' meteoric rise to mega-fame. These are her twang-tune roots, similar to Three Chords And A Heartbreak but with even sparser arrangements. There are also some syrupy ballads that gave a hint of things to come. Not earthshaking, but interesting in relation to the career to come.
Sara Evans "Stronger" (RCA Nashville, 2011)
Sara Evans "Greatest Hits" (RCA, 2007)
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