San Diego's slice of country heaven
Reviewed November 2009
By Sara Petite
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Hard to believe it's only been three years since Sara Petite released her first album and began taking the local scene by storm. With an energetic stage show built around her twangy-as-a-musical-saw vocals and hard-charging rock-and-country band (and a superb and growing set of original songs), Petite has risen to the top of the short list of the next artist or band from San Diego likely to achieve national stardom.
Her third album finds no great artist breakthrough but given that she arrived on the scene seemingly fully formed with "Tiger Mountain,", looking for dramatic artistic growth album to album doesn't make much sense in Petite's case. What is different is that this album was recorded in Nashville, with an A-list of country studio men backing her instead of her usual San Diego band.
Hard to say it's better, given how good her regular lineup is. But given the stellar playing and super-clean production on this new disc, you sure couldn't say it's a step back. It's just different from what her San Diego fans are used to in her live shows and first two discs. Much more polished, for sure. Cleaner production than the surprisingly muddy mix on last year's "Lead the Parade."
Petite remains the utterly in control singer she's been since that first release. A less-strong personality, or one with less talent, might have wilted in front of a band composed of folks who've backed everyone from Johnny Cash to Marty Stuart to Dwight Yoakum. Petite, though, sings with the same smiling confidence as she does at her gigs at the tiny Ould Sod Irish bar in Normal Heights, her distinctively nasal vocals as country as country gets, with fine control and a purity of pitch that would leave most classically trained singers deep in envy.
Then there are the songs. Her songs, all but one of the 13 found here. Some seem new, others, like "Fade Away," have been in her regular set list for a couple years at least in one form or another. Among the newer titles, the best like the rocking "Baby Let Me In," the plaintive "We Shouldn't Be Doing This" or the tender "Souvenirs" remind more than a little of Tom Russell and Guy Clark in their blending of storytelling and song.
It's a tremendous collection of strong songs and Petite's remarkable singing, as great a listen as it is testament to her hard work and talent.
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).