Sara Evans – “A Little Bit Stronger”
Songwriters: Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey and Hillary Scott
Sara Evans’ last studio album, 2005′s Real Fine Place, seemed to be the final push to plant her firmly among the superstar females in the genre. After its release, she was named ACM Top Female Vocalist for the first time and landed a high-profile gig on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
But her burgeoning career almost collapsed when news broke of her nasty split from husband and politician Craig Schelske in late 2006. Evans spoke publicly about her disappointment over the divorce, and then largely retreated from the spotlight, returning only for brief periods in the last four years.
On “A Little Bit Stronger,” her latest single after a few false starts at country radio, Evans hints of the discontent she felt in the aftermath. “Woke up late today,” she sighs, “and I still felt the sting of the pain.” When she first arrived on the scene, Evans’ music put new twists on old-school arrangements, accenting the Missouri drawl in her rich, throaty alto. While her forthcoming album might include more traditional offerings, “Stronger,” produced by Tony Brown, is a country-pop power ballad that would sound at home on a Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift album.
With its flourishes of steel and piano, “Stronger” draws out an authentic, organic vocal from Evans, who offers an emotionally engaging effort that proves why she’s been sorely missed on country radio. Her voice is a warm Southern comfort, and scads of women (and men, for that matter) will relate to the scarred character she portrays. Evans carries this single, even through the unnecessary percussion that builds as she approaches each chorus. Still, the ebbs and flows of this arrangement echo her conflict–she delivers quiet reflections one moment, and then confident declarations the next–and hold your interest for the whole four minutes.
As Evans recounts the details of her daily routine, she sings, calmly but curtly, “I get a little bit stronger.” By merely repeating that phrase throughout the song, it seems, maybe her hopes will come to life. Just when a rush of electric guitars threatens to rob the song of all its emotion during the final act, Evans deftly handles the third chorus: “I’m done thinkin’ that you’ll ever change,” she insists, perhaps believing it for the first time.
The rest of “Stronger” resorts to a few boring phrases that add little flavor to the performance, but the performance alone earns high marks. All in all, this is a qualified success for a woman who’s worthy of a second act on the airwaves.
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