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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
San Diego-based Sara Petite has been at this country music business for a few years now. This is her fourth album in the last seven years or so, and it pretty much reprises the mixture of material she came up with for Doghouse Rose, her most recent album before this. A fine selection of brassily rocking country numbers are balanced by quieter, heart-on-her-sleeve songs. Her songwriting reflects the material of her early heroes, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Like them she can make a song that has its roots in real life acquire the kind of gloss that will communicate itself across the airwaves. One of these days, one of her songs will like as not hit paydirt – it’s a random, unpredictable process, but she stands as good a chance as anyone.
Though not an imitation of an earlier sound, several of these songs seem to hark back in style to classic country music of forty years ago; she opens the show with a cheating song, Perfume, which focuses on the small detail that triggers the big issue, the heartbreak of a good love gone bad. In this case, her man is admitting nothing but she can smell the other woman’s perfume and “I can’t stand the smell of her perfume”. This could be an excuse for some maudlin lachrymosity, but the band is going full tilt for this one and Sara’s vocal implies she will survive – no room for a soft heart in this sort of world and that electric guitar is all hard-edged shiny bright notes. Her heart might be bruised but she’s partying hard in the direction of tomorrow.
There are more songs like this; there’s a bit of rockabilly about the brash, driving pop country of Movin’ On and some swaggering twang to The Master – slight twists to the style but always fun and always lifted out of the routine by the strength of personality that Sara brings to her singing. She sounds genuine, and genuinely enthusiastic to be doing what she does. She gives it everything and that counts for a lot. For me, though, it’s the slower songs that really hit home. The title track, in particular, is really affecting - I love the tone of sad regret, and the catch in her voice. You might be conscious that she’s delivering a performance, a stage persona, but, like Dolly Parton, you can’t help but warm to the exuberant enthusiasm she brings to her art. Certainly for me, there will always be a corner of my heart open to Sara Petite’s music.
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