The Very Best of Sara Evans
While Sara Evans is reportedly in the studio hard at work on her forthcoming seventh studio album, Sony Legacy has released a new fourteen track retrospective of her sixteen-year career – the latest installment in the label’s Playlist series. Coming nearly five and a half years after Evans’ 2007 Greatest Hits package, Playlist: The Very Best of Sara Evans intersperses several of her biggest hits with a few less expected inclusions. While there is some great material to be heard, there are a few missed opportunities as well.
The most glaring omission is Evans’ 2011 smash “A Little Bit Stronger,” which returned her to the top of the charts after a six-year dry spell, and became the first platinum-certified single of her career. Its absence is made particularly disheartening by the fact that the song post-dated Evan’s original Greatest Hits album. Her other four number one hits – “No Place That Far,” “Born to Fly,” “Suds In the Bucket,” and “A Real Fine Place to Start” – are all present and accounted for, as are Top 10 hits “I Could Not Ask for More,” “I Keep Looking,” and “Cheatin’.” Her 2003 #2 hit “Perfect” is curiously omitted, while “Backseat of a Greyhound Bus” gets the short shaft for the second time.
Among the lesser-known cuts, the most worthwhile inclusion is Evans’ 1997 single “Three Chords and the Truth,” from her critically acclaimed, commercially unheralded debut album of the same name – a project which Greatest Hits pretends never existed. Another pleasant surprise is Evans’ rendition of the Barbara Mandrell hit “Crackers,” from the 2006 Mandell tribute She Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool. Two unreleased album tracks (“You Don’t” from Born to Fly and “Niagara Falls” from Restless), one hymn (“The Sweet By and By,” after which Evans’ first novel was titled), and the pretty but forgettable Jim Brickman collaboration “Never Alone” round out the set. The collection closes on an unnecessary sour note, tacking on the mediocre non-hit “Feels Just Like a Love Song,” from a 2009 album project that never materialized.
In theory, Sara Evans should be well served by a compilation that mixes hits with hidden treasures – especially considering that many of her finest moments never made it to heavy radio rotation. Unfortunately, Playlist all too often includes questionable choices at the expense of superior material. In some cases the songs included are decent, but pale in comparison to what might have been included instead. If you’re going to include an unreleased track from Born to Fly, why “You Don’t” instead of “I Learned That from You”? If you’re going to include a track from Restless, why “Niagara Falls” instead of “Rockin’ Horse”? If you’re going to include one of her cover songs, why “Crackers” instead of “I Don’t Wanna Play House”? Why not include excellent underrated singles like “Coalmine,” “Tonight,” or “Fool, I’m a Woman”?
Evaluated purely on the merits of its content, Playlist: The Very Best of Sara Evans is an enjoyable listen with many fine tracks. It’s a decent introduction to Sara Evans’ music, but it neither adequately summarizes her hit-making career, nor offers an effective representation of her best work. Her 2007 Greatest Hits remains an overall better value.
Track listing: 1. Born to Fly/ 2. I Could Not Ask for More/ 3. I Keep Looking/ 4. No Place That Far/ 5. You Don’t/ 6. A Real Fine Place to Start/ 7. Sweet By and By/ 8. Three Chords and the Truth/ 9. Suds In the Bucket/ 10. Niagara Falls/ 11. Crackers/ 12. Cheatin’/ 13. Never Alone (with Jim Brickman)/ 14. Feels Just Like a Love Song