Single Review: Sara Evans, “If I Can’t Have You”

“If I Can’t Have You”

Sara Evans

Written by Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, and Robin Gibb

Sara Evans has recorded a disco song and I’m not entirely sure how to process its existence.

“If I Can’t Have You” is a solid Bee Gees number, and it was properly immortalized with Yvonne Elliman’s chart-topping cover, which was a highlight of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Sara Evans apparently loves the song.  Grew up loving it, I’m sure.  So it’s a logical inclusion for her upcoming covers set, Copy That. 

But here’s the thing about covers.  If you’re going to stay faithful to the original, you’ve got to work within the boundaries of the hit version.  This works best when an artist is covering something within their own wheelhouse.  That approach has made for some classic records over the years, like Mark Chesnutt’s “I’ll Think of Something” and Reba McEntire’s “Fancy.”

The other way to skin the cat is for an artist to take a song from outside of their wheelhouse, and rework it so it fits within their own style.  Think Dolly Parton’s Grammy-winning cover of Collective Soul’s “Shine,” or Johnny Cash’s landmark recording of the Nine Inch Nails classic, “Hurt.”

What doesn’t work is trying to force yourself into someone else’s wheelhouse.  That just sounds like a drunken Karaoke night toward the tail end of a bachelorette party.

Sara Evans makes no changes to the disco arrangement of “If I Can’t Have You.”  Yvonne Elliman could sing over this backing track in her sleep.

But she also makes no changes to her own vocal style, which is all hillbilly twang.  Isolate the vocal, and you could be listening to something from the Stanley Brothers catalog.

She sounds great, but it’s a vocal performance that meshes as well with a disco beat as peanuts do with bubblegum.

Sara Evans can sing better than most, but her talents are undermined here.

Grade: C

8 Comments

  1. here’s the track list from the upcoming album with hit version in ( )

    1. “If I Can’t Have You” – Yvonne Elliman
    2. “Don’t Get Me Wrong” – The Pretenders
    3. “Come on Eileen” – Dexys Midnight Runners
    4. “Crazy Love” – Poco
    5. “Whenever I Call You “Friend” – Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks
    6. “It’s Too Late” – Carole King
    7. “Monday Morning” – Fleetwood Mac
    8. “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” – John Mayer
    9. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (w/Old Crow Medicine Show) – Hank Williams
    10. “6th Avenue Heartache” – The Wallflowers
    11. “My Sharona” – The Knack
    12. “She’s Got You” – Patsy Cline
    13. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” – Chicago

    These are mostly good songs (other than “My Sharona”) so it will be interesting if she hear whether or not she can do anything innovation with them. I doubt any of her covers will be better than the original.

  2. Evans remains maddening. By all rights, she should’ve had a career that traced a similar path as Patty Loveless: Some vocalists can sing anything, and some vocalists can only really sing country music. Loveless knew she fell into the latter camp, whereas Evans still seems convinced she sounds like the crossover star she’ll never be. When she operates within her wheelhouse, she’s fantastic. The Hank Williams cover she does with OCMS for this project is terrific; would love to hear a full album in that vein, rather than this.

  3. I agree with Jonathan. Evans is superb but the cover art in ITunes was enought to persuade me not to buy the album.

    It simply shows an image which does not fit the artist.

  4. My Sharona? So I wonder what a nearly 50 year old woman will add to the lyric “I always get up for the touch of the younger kind.” It is a song about the lead singer wanting sex with his underage girlfriend.

    I am a big fan of covers but a strange selection of songs here. As for good cover, Molly Tuttle and OCMS just released a nice version of Neil Young’s “Helpless”. I think I’ll stick with that one.

  5. Of all the songs Sara covers here, besides the Hank Williams and Patsy Cline ones, the one that doesn’t strike me as totally strange is “Crazy Love”, seeing as how Poco, which had the original hit with it in 1979, was formed out of the ashes of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, and was part of the Los Angeles country-rock movement that was getting under way at the time. The other cover songs are….well, is “weird” too strong a word to use?

  6. Jonathan is spot on with his analysis. Sara is always at her best singing REAL country music. Why hasn’t she ever done a Bluegrass album?? I mean come on, in my opinion, she’s on par with Loveless when it comes to singing bluegrass and stone cold country twang. Oh well, maybe one day. I can always hope.

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