“No Place That Far”
Written by Sara Evans, Tony Martin, and Tom Shapiro
#1 (1 week)
March 6, 1999
A leading female artist from the turn of the century earns her first No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Missouri-born and raised, Sara Evans got her musical start as part of the Evans Family Band, singing lead vocals as early as age 6, backed by her siblings. By age ten, she already had her sights on Nashville, and she continued to perform and even record as she completed school. She moved to Nashville in 1991 with her brother, then met her husband and performed in a duo act with him when they temporarily lived in Oregon. A demo recording of hers was heard by Harlan Howard, who was instrumental in the young singer being signed to RCA Records. Her first album, Three Chords and the Truth, was released in 1997. Though it received universal critical acclaim, it did not produce a top forty radio hit.
Evans led off her second album, No Place That Far, with “Cryin’ Game,” which also fell short of the top forty. But the title track was released next, and it became her commercial breakthrough.
The No. 1
My only criticism of “No Place That Far” is that Vince Gill deserved full billing for his harmony vocal, which breaks out into a full duet in the final chorus.
The record itself is flawless. It’s a gorgeous song about unconditional love, and it’s closer to poetry than most country songwriting ever gets: “It wouldn’t matter why we’re apart,” she sings, “the lonely miles, or two stubborn hearts. Nothing short of God above could turn me away from your love. I need you that much.”
Evans delivers a vocal that demonstrates the heavy influence of Patty Loveless on her style, and it’s the perfect showcase for her pure traditional sound. This is the lane that would always work best for Evans, and it’s very deserving of its status as her breakthrough hit.
The Road From No. 1
Evans scored one more hit from No Place That Far: the top forty single “Fool, I’m a Woman.” It was enough to make it her first gold album. But her biggest success would come at the turn of the century. We will see her several times when we cover the 2000s.
“No Place That Far” gets an A.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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As great as her 1997 Pete Anderson-produced debut album “Three Chords and the Truth” album was, it functionally became a millstone around Sara Evans’ artistic neck as she explored a more contemporary sound on “No Place That Far.” Other female artists like Martina McBride and Faith Hill were already having to address accusations of selling-out and crossing over to pop. The traditionalists were all in a fervor about a perceived bait-and-switch on Evans’ part.
Which seems so silly on hindsight. Her second album was produced by Norro Wilson and Buddy Cannon. Look at the stable of songwriters she either pulled from or co-wrote with: James House, Jaime O’Hara, Matraca Berg, Harlan Howard, Billy Yates, Kostas, Leslie Satcher.
This single is gorgeous. It is clean, crisp, and contemporary. And still unmistakably country. I remember playing a promotional copy of it as often as I could when I was a clerk at Tower Records in downtown Toronto.
Not to mention, George Jones also sang backup on “Cupid” from her sophomore set. Hardly pop country, at all, lol.
I personally remember Sara getting a lot more criticism during the Born To Fly album era and the album after that, but then that’s also when I started reading the country message boards very often. Except for the title cut, most of the rest of the Born To Fly album is quite poppy compared to her first two, so I can understand why fans of her earlier records were caught off guard. I actually quite like that album, myself, though.
Sara Evans’ voice was meant for making country music. I think that’s why her more traditional-sounding songs end up working the best for me. This song is country enough that it works well. As a random aside, I always thought her cover of Walk Out Backwards on Three Chords and the Truth was the best version, and that’s saying something considering just how many people have cut it.
Love this song so much! It’s still personally my favorite Sara Evans song. Again, I just miss being able to hear beautiful, classy stuff like this on the radio any time.
I personally think the No Place That Far album was a perfect balance between the ultra rootsy sound of her debut and the cleaner, more commercial late 90’s country sound. It’s actually still my most favorite album of Sara’s, with other favorites of mine being “Love, Don’t Be A Stranger,” “I Thought I’d See Your Face Again” (hear a lot of Patty’s influence on that one), “Time Won’t Tell,” “These Days,” and “Cupid.” It’s too bad we didn’t get too many more albums like it from her. I’m one who tends to think her voice sounds best on the more traditional leaning music.
For me, “No Place That Far” is one of the most perfect and beautiful sounding country love ballads ever (and the late 90’s was full of beautiful ballads, so that’s saying something). Once again I love how late 90’s country seemed to find the perfect formula for combining tasteful clean and professional production styles with gorgeous traditional country instrumentation. Just the piano work alone is so pretty, from the intro to the lovely little piano solo at the very end, which gives it such a classy feel. The fiddle solo is beautiful, as well, along with Sonny Garrish’s steel on each chorus. Even the drums on each chorus sound so good! I personally also think this song still features one of the most beautiful melodies she’s ever sung.
I also love how Sara’s voice was still pretty twangy and unmistakably country during this stage in her career. I definitely hear the Patty Loveless influences (though Dad and I always thought she sounded like Terri Clark back then). I particularly always liked how her twang sounded during the verses and when she sings the very last line at the end of the song. The only time she hints at the belting style on her more pop leaning records later on is during the final chorus when she really soars vocally, which is also another one of my favorite parts.
I also agree that Vince Gill should’ve gotten more credit for his contribution to the record. I mean, he’s even in the music video! The first time I ever heard “No Place That Far” in the car with my step dad, I was caught off guard when Vince joined Sara on the last chorus, since I wasn’t expecting it. The DJ’s usually credited both Sara and Vince back then, though. The first time I heard the female DJ mentioning Sara’s name after this song, I recognized her from “Cryin’ Game,” which was my actual introduction to her briefly in the Summer of ’98. Her last name reminded me of a store in our area called Evan’s that my mom loved going to when I was little, lol.
As mentioned above whenever my Dad and I heard “No Place That Far” together in the car, we always thought she sounded quite a bit like Terri Clark, and he would sometimes get them mixed up. I also remember my dad, step dad, and I all seeing her perform a chorus of the song during the 1999 ACM Awards, which was the first time I got to see what she looked like.
I was also lucky enough to record this song on the the B-side of the second tape I recorded during my 7th grade year in early 1999. On that side is “Blame It On Your Heart” by Patty Loveless, “You’re Beginning To Get To Me” by Clay Walker, “Two Teardrops” by Steve Wariner, “No Place That Far” by Sara Evans, “The Closer You Get” by Alabama, “Maybe Not Tonight” by Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw, “Hands Of A Working Man” by Ty Herndon,” and “Gone Crazy” by Alan Jackson. I had actually been listening to that tape recently, and it still sounds amazing coming out of our big stereo, especially since 93.3 WFLS put quite a bit of bass in the music during the late 90’s.
This song, like many others from this late 98/early 99 period, also takes me back to being in York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It reminds me of weekend trips we took there during the earlier part of 1999, and I still loved hearing it on my ipod whenever we went back to PA throughout the 2010’s.
Lastly, “No Place That Far” reminds me of our local Olive Garden, not only because my parents and I dined there often during the late 1998-early 1999 period, but it also happened to be playing on the radio in Dad’s car just when we were about to park at the restaurant at around 2002/2003. That was the last time I recall ever hearing it on the radio. After 2004, it sadly became another late 90’s song our stations forgot about.
I also really adore “Fool, I’m A Woman” and it’s probably my next favorite Sara Evans song. It still puts me in such a great mood whenever I hear it! I absolutely love the Mavericks feel, especially in the melody and catchy guitar riffs. I always liked the unique way her twangy voice sounded on it, as well. It was mostly on the radio during the early summer of 1999 after I had graduated from 7th grade, and it reminds me of when we started visiting the Frazer/Malvern area of Pennsylvania for the first time and staying at the Hampton Inn over there (shortly before they put an Outback Steakhouse right next to it). I even still remember the two main employees who worked at the front desk in the lobby back then. :)
I still love “Cryin’ Game” too and wish it was a more successful for her. Once again, it’s such a perfect balance of traditional and contemporary, and it’s so dang catchy!