SaraBeth EP Review
By Lesley Hastings
Ok, I’ll hold up my hands and say I’d not even heard of Sara Beth before being alerted to the release of her latest EP. But hey, having no pre-conceived notions or expectations can be a good thing I reckon!
So I made a decision to not listen to any of her other music or read about her before getting my ears around her latest release. Did I like what I heard? You bet I did! So much so that I also immediately downloaded some of her back catalogue and bought a ticket for her forthcoming UK tour!
The EP is a great example of the contemporary country sound that seems to be attracting much attention at the moment and getting country music a new generation of followers. Not sure if SaraBeth has her own band or uses session musicians in Nashville ( where she’s now based, originally hailing from Dallas, Texas ) but throughout the five tracks there’s some amazing playing by some obviously very accomplished players. With a strong beat throughout the tracks this EP is a great Summer driving soundtrack, so has been released at the perfect time as far as I am concerned! No ballads here, all mid to up-tempo songs, with some catchy choruses to sing along with ( great vocals and top notch production mean the listener can easily hear the lyrics above the twanging guitars, fiddles and banjos!)
All the tracks deal with the subject of love and relationships in some shape or form, but without being soppy or cliched. The opener ” You Rock My Rodeo” is the most out and out country track lyrically as you may expect from the title, with lines like “If you’ll be my outlaw I’ll be your Southern belle”. It tells of seeing someone you are immediately attracted to, determined to “get”, and the ensuing excitement of the relationship, with the rodeo analogy put to clever use. Such a lot going on instrumentally on this track, all sounding amazing and adding to the country vibe, it will be interesting to hear it in a more stripped back form ( I assume!) when Sara Beth tours….but then again, that goes for all the songs as the musicians really are superb throughout this EP as I’ve already mentioned.
If I had to pick a favourite track, the next one “Running out of Lipstick” would be a contender. The slowest of the tracks, I love the idea that it conveys of a “dress down” kind of a girl wanting to dress up for her man ( and feminist, don’t get on your soap box, her man is happy with her in her sweatpants and baseball cap!) and kiss him til her lipstick runs out! The chorus soars nicely, I love the song’s bridge and there are some beautifully subtle harmonies and backing vocals, too. I love the banjo on this one, and as with all the tracks we’re treated to a wonderful instrumental break ( most of the songs are pretty standard in their construction) . Not the most commercial of the tracks but maybe that’s why I like it so much!
Giving the previous song a run for it’s money as my favourite has to be one that follows. “Do What You Say You’re Gonna Do” With an introduction that made me think of ” We Own The Night” ( Lady Antebellum), the premise of this song is that honesty, integrity and following through promises, are far more important than empty romantic gestures when it comes to winning over the singer’s heart. There are once again some clever lyrics ( such as “get me take-out in a picnic basket, and forget the silver spoon”) good harmonies and I particularly love the steel in the background.
“You Keep Me Smiling” describes how the thought of her partner gets her through all the downs that the day throws at her, not a new concept , and although I really liked how this song starts it tended to disappoint me as it progressed . Possibly the least catchy song melody wise, the chorus is a bit too similar to the first track to my ears, so I will pass quickly on to the EP’s closing song and recent single release, “I’m Sick of It” . The shortest track on the album ( perfect length for radio play) it has a really strong, driving beat and Sara Beth’s vocals exude attitude throughout……a break up song but on a woman’s terms, she is throwing out her partner and his belongings ( including his guitar which is due to be “crushed underneath her brother’s truck “). Lyrically and arrangement-wise it’s possibly not the strongest of the tracks, but it is simple and incredibly infectious with a fun video to help the promotion. The only track with some male backing vocals too, incidentally. The fastest paced track on the EP, it slows down nicely for a while in the middle during the guitar break (which is always a good way to keep the listener’s attention) with the vocals then gradually picking up speed again before the final chorus and perfect, abrupt ending.
Not having the writing credits to hand, I can only glean that Sarabeth has co-written all the tracks ( apologies if this is incorrect!) with several of the talented writers that Nashville has to offer these days, including her friend and the EP’s producer, Glen Mitchell who hails from here in the UK originally and who will be joining her on tour back on his home turf this Summer. It will be interesting to hear stripped back versions of the songs which will no doubt be the case on the tour, but I am confident that with Sarabeth’s strong voice (she is classically trained, I believe) and the well-written, infectious numbers the audiences will be in the palm of her hands, clapping, dancing and singing along. I know for sure I will!