Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sara Evans, "My Heart Can't Tell You No"

Songwriters:  Simon Climie, Dennis W. Morgan

When you think of eighties pop tunes that are deserving of country reinterpretations, isn't Rod Stewart the first act that comes to mind?  Possibly not, but that must have been what Sara Evans was thinking.  Her new single offering, hot on the heels of her first number one hit since 2005, is a cover of the Rod Stewart hit "My Heart Can't Tell You No."

Of course, no amount of pedal steel can fully conceal the fact that "My Heart Can't Tell You No" is a pop song at its core.  It's eighties power ballad flavor remains distinguishable, particularly during the crescendoing chorus.  Despite such characteristics, Sara's take on "My Heart Can't Tell You No" is more toned back instrumentally in comparison to the original and to the electric guitar-laden power balladry of Sara's previous smash, "A Little Bit Stronger."  This recording finds Sara primarily backed by acoustic and steel guitar.  The arrangement does contain a helping of electric guitar, but even that sometimes-distracting instrument manages to stay in its proper place.

The arrangement displays some pleasant interplay between the instruments and Sara's soaring vocals.  Each time Sara sings "When the one you love's in love with someone else..." she is answered by a series of weeping steel guitar chords.  This demonstrates the well-known fact that, despite her occasional affinity for flirting with crossover sounds, Sara's distinctive alto has always sounded best when paired with traditional country instruments.  Sara's performance vascillates from a restrained, low-key delivery to a series of high vocal swoops.  She sings with palpable conviction as she begs her lover "You've got to stay away from me!  Stay away from me!"

Despite its inherent pop nature, the lyrical content of "My Heart Can't Tell You No" fits in snugly with the signature themes of country music.  It's a good song, but the production of the original version planted it squarely among the trends of its specific era.  Resurrecting the song into a less bombastic, modernized version shows the timelessness of a well-constructed lyric.

Overall, "My Heart Can't Tell You No" is a respectable entry from an artist whose own life has been the stuff of a country song in recent years.  It may or may not rank as one of Sara's best-remembered singles in years to come, but either way, it's a competent reworking that shows what a capable lyrical interpreter Sara can be when given the right song.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)