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Sarah Johns

Big Love in a Small Town – 2007 (BNA)

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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CDs by Sarah Johns

Sarah Johns cites Tammy Wynette as one of her primary influences. That's interesting, considering that she's more like a modern-day version of another country legend, Loretta Lynn. Johns is a Kentucky-born brunette who sings tough girl songs with a traditional flair. She had a hand in writing all 11 of the songs on her debut.

The album has a heavy dose of fiddle and steel guitar, but it seems like Johns goes to extremes on the tracks. She's either singing a funny song, "The One In The Middle," about making an obscene hand gesture to an unfaithful boyfriend or challenging that boyfriend on "If You Could Hold Your Woman" (like you hold your whiskey). But then shows a seriously vulnerable side on tender ballads like "Baby My Heart," "Touch Me" and "That's Just Me Getting Over You."

Johns is at the top of her game when she finds some middle ground between men-bashing songs and heartbroken tunes. The album's highlights are clearly the rollicking title track and "Muddy Water," a gospel-country song with lots of fiddle and soulful vocals.