Sara Evans new album is really cool

Martina McBride can make mediocre material fly the same way Meryl Streep can out-act a bad script.

Martina McBride (one of Evans’ role models) can make mediocre material fly the same way Meryl Streep can out-act a bad script. Other hit-makers couldn’t be interesting singing Sweet Dreams. But Evans can sizzle when locked into a sharp melody, a tasty tale and a bit of twang. Or she can make a bland ballad last for what seems like 26 minutes.

Happily here, on her fourth RCA album, the good outweighs the weak, and she and co-producer Paul Worley have collaborated on a dynamic soundscape that is colorful, ambitious and organic enough to stay grounded.

Rockin’ Horse, the opener, is the right kind of different with a strong lyric. Backseat of a Greyhound Bus is a powerful story that builds over five minutes to a big string and vocal climax. The title track is Celtic-infused and colorful.

The album’s icky stuff is all clustered in the middle. Niagara is bombastic and maudlin. Perfect is just another take on the over-worked theme of how people love each other even though they’re not you-know-what. And heaven knows what Evans sees in Diane Warren songs, but here’s another one, Need to Be Next to You, fresh from the froth factory.

Things snap back with Tonight, which proves again that Evans can tackle a ballad when it’s strong. But the real fun caps the album with the saucy Suds in the Bucket, a dash of unapologetic country after a sequence of something less resolute. Evans proved years ago with Tiger by the Tail that’s what she’s really, really good at. It would be great to hear more of it released more often.