Sara Evans

No Place That Far

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On the follow-up to her surprise 1997 debut hit, Three Chords and the Truth, singer and songwriter Sara Evans shocked many of the fans who embraced it with No Place That Far. Where Dwight Yoakam producer and guitarist Pete Anderson helped Evans shape a modern version of hardcore country traditionalism on the first disc, RCA brought in producers Buddy Cannon and Norro Wilson to protect their investment and take her to the next level by adding plenty of sheen and shine -- and a slew of celebrity guests for good measure. It worked: No Place That Far firmly established Evans as a bona fide superstar, a down-home singer with the pipes of a diva. Almost immediately, she entered the pantheon reserved for singers like Martina McBride (who appears here) and Trisha Yearwood (who she basically replaced) in the spotlight. Evans co-wrote five of the set's 11 tunes including the title track, which was a smash out of the box. It's not that slick pop completely replaced the torch and twang in Evans' voice and songs; it's more like it was integrated gradually, eventually replacing it. There are still a number of cuts here that show off Evans' roots sound: the opener, "The Great Unknown," co-written with Phil Barnhart and James House; "These Days," written with the great Matraca Berg; and the closer, "There's Only One," penned with Leslie Satcher. But the title track, written with Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro, could have been released in 2007 -- it bore the adult pop mark of the new contemporary country sound. With backing vocals by heavy hitters like Vince Gill and McBride, it was destined for the Top Five. The soaring emotional euphoria in the refrain (which seemingly underscores the definition of transcendent love) was impossible to resist. Another notable cut is Jamie O'Hara's country pub rock shuffle "The Crying Game." (It sounds like it was written by Hank DeVito and produced like it was a track on an early Rosanne Cash or Rodney Crowell record.) It was a place where Evans' voice was left pretty much untreated and allowed to display its natural range and emotional depth. "Fool, I'm a Woman," with its sprightly mandolins, ringing electric guitars, and crackling snare drum, is another of those crossover tunes that landed as a single. In all, the album scored three, and placed Evans in the multi-platinum category at the top of the charts, where every effort since has landed.

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