Album Reviews

Sara Petite

Road Less Traveled

Artist:     Sara Petite

Album:     Road Less Traveled

Label:     Sweet P. Music

Release Date:     05.19.2017

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San Diego’s Sara Petite has delivered her favorite and most personal work to date with this, her fifth studio album. Although she’s gained some recognition in Americana circles, she is mostly a refreshing, just-a-tad-south-of-Bakersfield classic country singer. In the ’60s through ‘80s, the era of classic country, it’s easy to envision some of these songs getting airplay. Listen just a little more closely and you’ll hear bluegrass, folk, and a rock n ’roll attitude that seeps through every so often, too.

In one sense, it’s rather surprising that Petite is still making music. After her third album, Doghouse Rose, in 2010 she wanted to use her college degree in Political Science and International Relations and was heading toward a corporate path. Then her partner and drummer, John Kuhlken, died. Music remained a foundation for her amidst the chaos and depression she was going through. Although proud of her earlier work, she struggled with the notion of making a career in music. “I used to be so nervous and scared, waiting for people to call me out and tell me how bad I was,” she says. “Now my body of work is extensive, I can easily play four sets of my own material. I’ve become a diverse musician that can’t be pigeonholed.”

Instead of recording in Nashville with studio musicians as she did for her last two albums, she did this one in California with her road band, augmented by guests contributing harmonies, trumpet, fiddle, and more. You sense Petite’s newly found confidence and joy right from the outset. The record kicks off with the title track, an ode to the spirit of independence and adventure, with Frank Lee Drennen of Dead Rock West on harmony. “It Was Just a Kiss” is playful tune and as the album flows, “Getting Over You” is a Tammy Wynette-inspired tune with Phil Jordan on trumpet. “Patchwork Quilt” continues the country vibe.

Then there’s her rocking side in “Good 2 B Me,” stemming from a surreal dream where Petite saw Tom Petty in the mirror instead of her own reflection. “Monkey on My Back” is an homage to her hometown favorite band, The Beat Farmers. Songs like “Sweet Pea Blues” and “Sweet Pea Patch” are obviously autobiographical but the clearest statement of all is her testament to determination, “I Will Rise.”

While Petite’s voice is a little thin, she compensates for it with style and attitude, along with solid songwriting. It’s good to see her embracing music, growing into her own style and coming across so naturally.

—Jim Hynes

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