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Sara Evans

Born to Fly – 2000 (RCA)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Sara Evans

Those who fell in love with the classically styled Country of Sara Evans' 1997 debut "Three Chords and the Truth" couldn't help but be disappointed by its commercial failing and Evans' subsequent turn towards the radio-friendly pop of 1998's " No Place to Hide." While her latest doesn't regain the exquisite high-ground of her debut, its broader palette explores several colors of country vocals while mixing in a few exotic instrumental touches.

Evans and co-producer Paul Worley, provide heartening examples of howcountry can at once retain its soul while simultaneously drawing on the sounds favored by radio. The result is an album that mates country's roots to contemporary song-craft (including covers of Bruce Hornsby and Diane Warren-by-way-of-Edward McCain), but only manages a few true marriages.

The title track features an inventive mix of New Orleans marching drums,acoustic guitars, organ, fiddle, banjo, dobro and a string backing befitting The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, all topped triumphantly by Evans' tightly wound harmonies. "I Keep Looking" follows a more straight-forward country-rock path, "Let's Dance" crosses Deana Carter's early success with shades of Carly Simon, and "I Learned That From You" gives Evans a chance to wring out some hard-learned heartache.

Evans' incredible talent is evident throughout, even when trapped in some of the album's more pedestrian ballads. The end result is an album that provides high points for traditionalists and modernists alike, but may leave neither fully satisfied.