Real Fine Place

Sara's 2003 Restless found her edging close to pop territory, complete with soaring string section. For her latest, she's ditched the pop (for the most part) and kept the strings for an album that hews to her roots while still playing like a step forward.

Real Fine Place is also a step back toward the country lyrically as well. Several songs yearn for small-town life, although "Bible Song" plays devil's advocate with a portrait of suffocating isolation in just such a tiny town. Sara's soulful singing makes both positions, and everything in between, sound believable.

—Chris Neal

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