Sara Evans - Stronger
By: Matt Bjorke
After taking some time off to attend to personal matters, Sara Evans returned with the high profile single “A Little Bit Stronger,” a song that’s both a part of the Country Strong official soundtrack and sung in the film by actress Leighton Meester. Written by Hillary Lindsey, Hillary Scott and Luke Laird, the tune has ended up being the source material for the album’s title Stronger. Always one of the strongest singers in country music with her powerful and at times lilting alto, Sara’s 10 track album features a strong mix of contemporary country music.
Written with Marcus Hummon (co-writer of “Born To Fly”), “Desperately” finds Sara Evans singing a lyric about how everyone wants to be loved desperately. If anyone has listened to much of Hummon’s own music (and I suggest they should), this is a theme that has often been discussed in his best work, and with the lyric here he (and Sara) add a new layer to his songs. While completely contemporary, there is a wall-of-melodic-sound featuring banjos, mandolins and simmering B-3 organs. Aaron and Brian Henningsen are enjoying success as co-writers of the Band Perry’s third hit single “You Lie” and they’re the writing team behind “Alone,” a power ballad with rolling dobro fills balancing Evans’ the melody as Sara sings “Sometimes loving me means just leaving me alone.” A fantastic fiddle solo also fills up the song in the instrumental break while “What That Drink Cost Me” is equally fiddle-filled as Sara sings about the cost of alcoholism has on people:
“I lost a good man to a bad habit, he didn’t love the whiskey but he had to have it. If you could put a price tag on everything that haunts me, then you’d know what that drink cost me.”
Orignally a Rod Stewart hit in 1988, “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” is reborn here as a mid-tempo moody ballad that isn’t all that different from the Stewart version (aside from steel guitar being prominently featured throughout the song) and I have a feeling that it’ll make its way to country radio sometime within the life-cycle of Stronger. “Anywhere” (written by Sara’s brother Matt Evans and Jaren Johnson) features a sound and melody that feels like a vintage Martina McBride song a little bit while Wildfire, a song written by Sara with Matt and pop/rock writers/producers Kara DioGuardi and Marti Fredriksen, features a playful melody and acoustic pop feel. The albom closes with a ‘bluegrass version’ of “Born To Fly,” a song which still remains one of Sara’s biggest hits of her career which means that the song is the most acoustic and ‘traditional’ on the album, if such things can be considered that way (there’s still percussion, which is often a no-no in bluegrass).
When everything’s said and done, Stronger is an album that Sara Evans fans have been longing to have – it’s her first new album since 2005’s Real Fine Place. It’s also a refreshing return for a singer who once was one of the genre’s top female vocalists.