Oct 4th, 5 to 7pm
Humphrey's Happy House
"Peace, Love & Honky Tonks" - www.sarapetite.com
Spend the Fourth & Fifth
Pappy & Harriets
Whenever Sara Petite sings, she sounds like a real girl. That may sound like a, 'Well, no duh!' remark, but with so many contemporary country divas playing the Miss Perfect part to, well, perfection, it's getting harder and harder to find many real girl country singers anymore. That makes Petite a delightful exception to the rule.
Whether she's joking about resorting to riding an elephant to get away from a bad relationship, as Petite does during Movin' On, -- no, not the Hank Snow song - or having a relational allergic reaction to 'the other woman's' perfume during Perfume, Petite always sings in a ragged-but-right and oh-so-sincere gal's voice. She comes of especially smart when she's angry, which is most apparent during the latter day outlaw country of The Master, which brings Waylon, Willie and the gang to mind - even better than Gretchen Wilson. It has that assertive rhythmic thump-thumb of Jennings' sonic signature, along with a melodic nod to Nelson's On the Road Again, giving it the best of both worlds. Lyrically, this 'master' is only the king of doing girls wrong.
Petite is just as appealing when she sings about the truism of If Mamma Ain't Happy (the latter part of that phrase is, "Ain't nobody happy.") She can seemingly do no wrong, no matter what voice approach she takes.
We haven't had a down home country singer/songwriter this good since Iris Dement. Think of Dement, only a whole lot more fun, and you'll get a good picture of the joy that is Sara Petite's "Circus Comes to Town."
Sara Petite makes the Alternate Roots Top 30 Vocalists right now list
San Diego-based Sara Petite has been at this country music business for a few years now. This is her fourth album in the last seven years or so, and it pretty much reprises the mixture of material she came up with for Doghouse Rose, her most recent album before this. A fine selection of brassily rocking country numbers are balanced by quieter, heart-on-her-sleeve songs. Her songwriting reflects the material of her early heroes, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Like them she can make a song that has its roots in real life acquire the kind of gloss that will communicate itself across the airwaves. One of these days, one of her songs will like as not hit paydirt – it’s a random, unpredictable process, but she stands as good a chance as anyone.
Though not an imitation of an earlier sound, several of these songs seem to hark back in style to classic country music of forty years ago; she opens the show with a cheating song, Perfume, which focuses on the small detail that triggers the big issue, the heartbreak of a good love gone bad. In this case, her man is admitting nothing but she can smell the other woman’s perfume and “I can’t stand the smell of her perfume”. This could be an excuse for some maudlin lachrymosity, but the band is going full tilt for this one and Sara’s vocal implies she will survive – no room for a soft heart in this sort of world and that electric guitar is all hard-edged shiny bright notes. Her heart might be bruised but she’s partying hard in the direction of tomorrow.
There are more songs like this; there’s a bit of rockabilly about the brash, driving pop country of Movin’ On and some swaggering twang to The Master – slight twists to the style but always fun and always lifted out of the routine by the strength of personality that Sara brings to her singing. She sounds genuine, and genuinely enthusiastic to be doing what she does. She gives it everything and that counts for a lot. For me, though, it’s the slower songs that really hit home. The title track, in particular, is really affecting - I love the tone of sad regret, and the catch in her voice. You might be conscious that she’s delivering a performance, a stage persona, but, like Dolly Parton, you can’t help but warm to the exuberant enthusiasm she brings to her art. Certainly for me, there will always be a corner of my heart open to Sara Petite’s music.
Memory of Johnny Kuhlken