Album Review

Sara Petite – The Empress

Take aspects of your favourite outlaw country women, mix ‘em up with confident country vocals, sprinkle on a whole lot of charm and you’ve got many, but not all, of the ingredients that make Sara Petite’s music boil.

Holler Country Music
June 6, 2023 11:35 am GMT

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Sara Petite - The Empress

Label: Forty Below Records

Release Date: June 9, 2023

Producers: Eric Corne

Tracklisting:

1. God Save The Queen

2. Forbidden Fruit

3. That Was You and Me

4. Tread Softly

5. Bringin' Down The Neighbourhood

6. Le Petit Saboteur

7. The Empress

8. The Mistress

9. She's Come Undone

10. I Want You So Bad

11. Lead the Parade

She’s multi-talented, original, has a coolly distinctive voice, pens sharp, often funny, and usually sassy songs, has notched numerous awards (four-time winner of San Diego’s best country/Americana band) and is a critically acclaimed professional for almost two decades…. So why don’t more people know about Sara Petite?

Perhaps that will change on this, album number seven in a remarkably robust catalog.

On The Empress, Petite, the self-described “modern day June Carter”, combines rock and roll, country, blues and her combustive twang vocals into roots Americana at its most eclectic, explosive and sometimes quirky.

That’s nothing new since she has previously explored those genres successfully. But the vitality, swagger, spunk and sincerity imbued in these eleven tracks ups her trademarked energized approach to the next level.

Like Tom Petty, who she expressed adoration for in 2017’s spirited ‘Good 2 B Me’, Petite shifts her sound as effortlessly as gears in a high performance sports car.

Witness the NRBQ bar band rocking from ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ (“I aint’ the W-O-M-A-N I don’t keep it clean / I write my own rules, I’m wild as I am free”) and ‘I Want You So Bad’, to the blistering ‘Bringin’ Down the Neighborhood’ with Bobby Furgo’s jaunty fiddle work hovering over Petite’s admission that her family and friends aren’t exactly exemplary neighbors.

Make room for the soulful country of ‘Tread Softly’, and the honky tonking ‘Lead the Parade’, the latter revived and slowed down from her 2008 release, and Petite is difficult to compartmentalize.

Take aspects of your favourite outlaw country women - a bit of Dolly at her most idiosyncratic, some of Lucinda Williams’ hard won truth, a dash of Loretta Lynn’s verve and a dollop of Elizabeth Cook’s dry humour - mix ‘em up with confident country vocals, sprinkle on a whole lot of charm and you’ve got many, but not all, of the ingredients that make Petite’s music boil.

Much of this congeals on the title track where she pounds a defiant Steve Earle thump, spitting out a story of strong femme fatales throughout history. Starting with Eve, moving onto Joan of Arc and even witches burned at the stake (“Sometimes I was the sinner / Sometimes I was the saint / I hung, I swung, I screamed, / I burned, I walked the plank”), it’s the set’s most scathing moment.

That’s followed by a generally grim ‘The Mistress’, comparing an alcoholic’s bottle addiction to women with lines like, “She’s gonna be the death of you and me.”

Petite has acknowledged she’s a misfit in an earlier composition (“We are the misfits...we are the thieves; we'll steal your heart with a broken melody”). But the best artists always are. And on the alternately feisty, confrontational, thought provoking and grin inducing The Empress, she packages her eclecticism with gutsy, earthy, authenticity and, best of all, a buoyant sense of humour.

8/10

Sara Petite's 2023 album, The Empress, is out on June 9th via Forty Below Records.

Written by Hal Horowitz
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