Three years after the 2000 smash Born to Fly, Sara Evans matched its hit status with Restless, where singles like "Suds in the Bucket" and "Perfect" balanced her fun-loving country girl sensibilities with a homespun take on true love. She maintains that balance in 2005 with Real Fine Place. Evans is unabashed and straightforward about loving her husband and her family, and living her life in the eyes of God. But that doesn't mean she can't paint the town ("Momma's Night Out") or sing one of the best country songs about cheating in a while, the aptly named "Cheatin'." "How do you like that paper plate and those pork 'n' beans you're eatin'?" Evans asks with a perfect blend of spite and hurt. "Maybe you should've thought about that when you were cheatin'." Like on "Momma's Night," where a brassy horn section and backup singers punch up the arrangement, Real Fine Place isn't afraid to challenge the conventions of country or even contemporary country. "Coalmine" begins as a typical Dixie Chicks-style traditionalist number, but it's modernized with great lyrics that don't stick to cliché ("Can't wait to get him home/Ain't gonna have nothin' but the supper on...") and an ending section that layers Evans' vocal numerous times over the fiddle and rambling percussion. "Roll Me Back in Time" was written by Sheryl Crow and pop producer John Shanks and it sounds like it, while lead single "Real Fine Place to Start" is a breezy foot-tapper that shows off Evans' throaty vocal over steady pop percussion. While Real Fine Place is pretty slick in its production, it's sure to lure traditional country fans with Evans' rich vocal presence and the album's assertion that the simplest things in life are its truest. In that sense, Real Fine Place is the nicest kind of contemporary country. It looks at both sides of that phrase equally without losing sight of the heart in the center.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus