Jimmy Wayne

Sara Smile

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AllMusic Review by

Jimmy Wayne is no fool. While the five-year break between his 2003 debut and 2008’s Do You Believe Me Now? was precipitated by one label going out of business and his contract being transferred to another -- given the fickle nature of radio programmers and audiences seeking the next big thing, it was a minor miracle that the title single hit the number one spot on Billboard’s country chart. He knew not to tempt fate a second time. Wayne wasted no time; he toured hard to support it, and then jumped right back into the studio to record Sara Smile. The album is named after the Hall & Oates' classic -- they appear on it as well. It’s a reverent version -- except for the banjo introducing it, and the Nashville production style that includes pedal steel, prominent fiddles, and mandolins. Wayne recorded the song for two reasons: it’s the song that got him his first record deal as a singer, and because it has been a live staple since the beginning, his live audience demanded it. Wayne basically apes Hall’s lead vocal -- including falsetto -- note for note. The smooth Hall & Oates backing vocal ices the cake. And despite it appearing on a contemporary country record, it is still unmistakably a soul song and Wayne pulls it off in spades. Wayne wrote or co-wrote four of the album’s ten tracks. Other notables include the anthemic “Things I Believe,” with its bluegrass banjo and cracking snare drum. “Just Knowing You Love Me” also pays its own kind of tribute -- musically anyway -- to the John Mellencamp Lonesome Jubilee album, with its Lisa Germano-esque fiddle in between verses and the structure of the refrains. But it’s a killer track with Wayne’s great lyrics and the infectious melody that rouses the listener to believe every word from the protagonist’s mouth. Another original number, “I’ll Never Leave You,” is a country ballad with a gentle beatbox rhythm track, but otherwise drenched in acoustic and electric guitars. The melody is instantly memorable; the emotion in Wayne’s voice is direct, and rings true as the morning sun. Other than the title cut, it’s the best love song on the album. Three full-lengths in, Wayne is transcending his singles artist status and becoming an album-oriented one because of the musical consistency and hardcore emotional intensity of his singing and writing.

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