Sara Petite – Doghouse Rose (Sweet P, 2009)
The opening track from Sara Petite’s third album will grab your ears if for nothing else than the phased guitar sound that recalls the soul of Waylon Jennings’ “Are Your Sure Hank Done it This Way?” Petite sings with the girlish lilt and firecracker energy of Rosie Flores, and her crack band (which includes studio hotshot guitarist Kenny Vaughn, bassist Dave Rorick and drummer William Ellis) adds instrumental nuances that really give the productions something extra. Petite’s voice is twangy, perhaps too country for Country, and there’s a lot of rock ‘n’ roll punch in the band’s playing. The slap-back echo of “Baby Let Me In” adds a vintage twist to Petite’s voice, but Vaughn’s guitar is tougher and the rhythm more overpowering than straight rockabilly or honky-tonk.
Petite’s a gifted singer with a lot of texture in her voice, a bit like Texas singer Kimmie Rhodes. She sings the album’s title track with a parched tone that seeks acceptance, and infuses desperate longing into a cover of Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby.” Her band is right there with her, laying back or charging hard ahead as befits each song. The electric guitars provide sympathetic vamps for the sadder tunes and prod Petite to stand up when she’s fallen down. Sasha Ostrovsky’s dobro adds stringy twang throughout, and the rhythm section really adds muscle to the up-tempo numbers. Petite wrote all but one of these songs, and her lyrics have a conversational easiness that makes her stories, observations, realizations and confessions feel intimate.
Doghouse Rose has been out since November of 2009, but like many independent releases it’s only slowly gathering the attention it deserves. Petite’s well known in her adopted San Diego (she’s originally from Washington State) and made connections in Nashville; she’s gained exposure in Europe, opened for Josh Turner, Todd Snider and Shooter Jennings, and won several songwriting awards, yet her third album is still seeking broad release and listeners’ ears. Perhaps she needs to get to Nashville or Austin or North Carolina or New England to find herself a sympathetic label. In the meantime you can find Doghouse Rose in her website store.