With a vocal style which aches country, Sara Petite is not a singer out to appease the middle ground. Having fallen straight for her voice when first hearing Bob Harris play material from DOGHOUSE ROSE a while ago, this was an artist that could do no wrong in my book. That 2010 album and its two predecessors were quickly acquired and, after a brief lull, it is great to re-acquaint with her music through this follow up release. CIRCUS COMES TO THE TOWN is very much in a similar mould to the previous records with a clutch of rip roaring numbers interspersing a gentler roots sound, all characterised by that unmistakeable voice wrapping itself around genuine country songs.
Geographically and commercially, San Diego based Sara is a great many country miles away from the centre of the industry in Nashville, Tennessee but this need not detract from the authenticity of the sound emanating from her band. However with the current sea change of a more traditional style from female performers, you never know the call may come but in the meantime Sara isn’t going to spend any time worrying, just plying her trade relentlessly on the west coast and the frequent UK visits. Unfortunately these trips do seem a little low key at present but not without hope that someone may pick up on the talent and increase her awareness in the UK.
Weighing in with thirteen tracks just shy of forty minutes long, the album immediately gets into its stride with a classic cheating song, hitting all the right notes lyrically and musically. The pace of this opener ‘Perfume’ is ramped up with the following number, the country rockin’ ‘Movin’ On’ which metaphorically conveys the message that an artists’ lot is to never stand still. With all but one of the tracks a solo Sara Petite write, her lyrical brilliance is highlighted in the third number ‘Barbwire’ , incidentally the album’s only co-write, with the unforgettable line ‘she’s got barbwire around her heart’. Only in country music could such explicit imagery capture the message of a song.
The thoughtful title track ‘Circus Comes to Town’ shows the more tender side to Sara’s style and aligns a number of life issues to aspects of a circus. No country album would be complete without the ubiquitous drinking song and Sara truly delivers a heartfelt account of turning to the bottle to alleviate your problems. Although the title of the song, ‘Drinkin’ to Remember’, slightly misleads its message of drinking to forget. The up tempo guitar riffs that accompanied much of her earlier material return with a lyrical tirade against the subject of ‘The Master’. The retro feeling number ‘If Mamma Ain’t Happy’ is launched with a backbeat-supported intro before developing into a foot stomping rousing tune with a sing along gratifying chorus.
The band sparkles on ‘Scarlett Letter’ with some great guitar work accompanying yet another melodic chorus with seems to be Sara’s forte. While ‘Forever Blue’ shows the sombre side of her writing but still managing to retain a memorable haunting chorus, ‘Someday I’m Gonna Fly’ is the perfect feel good response and breathes an air of optimism to the album’s final tracks. A common trait of a lot of country records is to have an appropriate closing number that has an element of finality to it. ‘Ashes’ fits the model perfectly for this album and concludes a record which will embed a fulfilling memory in your mind.
There may be a touch of sass and an acquired taste to her style but make no mistake Sara Petite is a very fine country artist and deserves a greater profile. CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN is a welcome addition to her back catalogue and will do her career prospects no harm.