- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sara Evans, “Stronger” (RCA/Sony Nashville)

In the liner notes for Sara Evans‘ new CD, she thanks “everyone for waiting so patiently on me to make this record.” Indeed, it’s been six years since the Missouri-born singer’s last album.

As celebrity-gossip followers know, she dealt with drastic life changes over those years. In 2007, she divorced her first husband, politician Craig Schelske, amid allegations of cheating on both sides; she quit the TV series “Dancing with the Stars” mid-season to deal with the revelations. She then married a former star college quarterback, Jay Barker, uniting their seven kids under one roof after moving from Nashville to Alabama.

So, predictably, Evans‘ new song trumpets renewal and strength. However, the anthemic songs fall flat: On the fist-pumping “A Little Bit Stronger” and the spiritually inclined “Desperately,” Evans sounds oddly detached and the arrangements sound overly dramatic.

But once she gets past the front-loaded survivor songs, she settles into layered tunes that better reveal her strengths. The multi-dimensional “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” about a woman who doesn’t fully break from the man who hurt her, and the breezy “Anywhere” bring out a verve in Evans‘ husky voice that is absent from the big showcase tunes.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On “Alone,” the album’s most powerful ballad, Evans conveys the knotty emotions of telling a lover she loves his attentiveness and devotion_but she needs him to understand that, on occasion, she needs time to herself, too.

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