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sara evans
sara evans

Restless is right -- Sara Evans' fourth album doesn't sit still for a moment. The result is bracing, constantly shifting and sometimes confusing.

Often, Restless' subject is seduction -- "Tonight," "Otis Redding" and "I Give In" share a playful sensuality. But the come-ons are surrounded by mood-breakers like the bleak "Feel It Comin' On" and "Big Cry," which lives up to its title. The rest of Restless mixes straight-ahead love songs with warm, sometimes complicated character sketches (the hit "Backseat of a Greyhound Bus"), but never quite gels into a consistent theme.

Fortunately, the robust, ambitiously layered sound of Restless holds everything together. The album is thick with sonic details -- swooping strings, mandolins, organs, pennywhistles and who knows what else pop up everywhere.

Sara's voice sometimes battles to be heard in all this, but more often she just rides the music to glory. This is true on "Niagara Falls," the album's triumph. The music's dramatic wash matches the lyrics' tumultuous surrender to love, and the result is intensely moving.

Sara makes several big bets like that on Restless, and more often than not winds up winning. Someday that risk-taking may circle around and bite her. But not today.

SOUND ADVICE: Almost overstuffed, but never overblown – and not to be overlooked.

-- Chris Neal

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