You gotta love country music, which still demonizes tobacco just like a Baptist Church Sunday sermon. "Marquee Sign," off Sara Evans' "Word" album begins with the country star announcing, "I wish you were a pack of cigarettes/'Cause you would have come with a warning." Cigarettes, like the tequila she sings about later, are clearly bad for you. Unfortunately, the man in this song didn't come labeled with a skull and cross bones. The album from whence "Marquee Sign" comes, is a hit-or-miss affair, even though Evans sings wonderfully throughout.
Evans opens with the wonderfully bluegrass-y "Long Way Down," which comes complete with plenty of beautifully played acoustic instrumentation, including back-to-back banjo and fiddle solos. Another acoustic track, "Make Room at the Bottom," is sweet, gentle and sad. It's the sort of song one can easily imagine Alison Krauss singing. Nevertheless, Evans does a wonderful job with it.
One is left wishing Evans would have been a little more consistent, though. She gives us the reggae tune "Rain and Fire," which is more along the lines of Sugarland pop-country territory. "Diving in Deep" trades reggae for faux-Calypso. Evans does each of these styles justice, but after the first taste of "Long Way Down," one is left hungry for so much more of that.
Evans closes with a re-do of her song "A Little Bit Stronger," only this time she sings it unplugged. It's a fantastic song, and one where you can hear distinct songwriting trademarks from one of its writers, Hillary Scott, all over it. Few write hurtin', but determined songs better than Scott, and Evans shows us she doesn't need much more than a simple acoustic guitar to nail a song; she's just that good of a singer.
Although it's impressive to hear how Evans can stretch her stylistic muscles, it would have been far better had she stuck with just one sport, so to speak - traditional country (with just a touch of bluegrass).