Chasing the mainstream can be a hard thing for a successful artist when they have had a handful of hits and released records which cracked the mainstream zeitgeist. Like Lee Ann Rimes did with Remnants earlier this year, Sara Evans has decided to independently release Words on her own label (Born To Fly Records) and it finds her refreshed and sounding better than she did on her past couple of releases (even if she did get one more great hit in "A Little Bit Stronger" from that era). Instead of chasing whatever sounds the mainstream has, we have Sara in contemplative balladeer mode throughout the Majority of Words and this is truly where Sara and her distinctive alto shine.
Midtempo "Diving In Deep" reminds me of Paul Simon's "Graceland" musically with some afro-centric percussive melodies serving as the anchor for Sara Evans to sing about falling in love with all the gusto that we always do when in a relationship ("when all is fair in love in war, the consequence I will ignore because this time I'm diving in deep," she sings). "I Don't Trust Myself" is a moody song about being self-aware enough to not fall back into old routines while "I Want You" is a sweet, soaring alternative to "I Don't Trust Myself."
Fans of the earlier catalog from Sara Evans, will certainly find moments to enjoy here with the rootsy "Make Room At The Bottom" (co-written by Ashley Monroe), "I'm On My Way" and album opener "Long Way Down" while "Marquee Sign," one of three songs co-written by Sara Evans herself, showcase the singer's pen is still sharp. The song also showcases harmonies from her daughter Olivia. The title track, "Words," feels like a long-lost Emmylou song and "Night Light" features family harmony from Sara Evans three siblings Matt, Lesley and Ashley. Finally, "Letting You Go," is a song any parent can relate to as they watch their children grow up and go away and become adults themselves. It's a beautiful song and a strong closer (though, really, the acoustic version of "A Little Bit Stronger" serves as the real closer here).
It's often hard for stars to know when the time is right to stop chasing mainstream radio and it gets even harder for them to do that if they strive for a career in the independent realm. On some ways, you could listen to Sara Evans new, independently-released Words album and feel like she's chasing a train she'll never catch but the reality is that this is a record for a fans and if she does get some mainstram radio success, awesome, but if not, that's OK too because, hits or not, Words is the record of her career.