As someone who is only familiar with bits of Sara’s music, I
went into ‘Slow Me Down’ fairly blind. Despite my lack of knowledge, however, upon
first listening I think most would be surprised what the sound that hits you.
Once the song gets going, of course, it takes the shape of what you would expect
from a Sara Evans song: a country-tinged pop/soft rock belter focused around
love and relationships.
However, it’s the riff that, while the most memorable, is
also the most interesting part of the song. Played on piano across higher keys
than a lot of other songs, a huge heaping of delay has been added, and I think
they’re a little synthed, because they don’t quite sound real. In fact, I had
to watch an acoustic video of the song just to figure out it did actually seem
to be a piano they were using, as opposed to a computer program. Maybe I’m crazy,
but the piano just sounds slightly inhuman to me. It’s very much at the
forefront of the mix, and leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
It gets lost as the song progresses, unfortunately (or
perhaps they didn’t want to get too repetitive), and replaced by electric
guitar (the solo’s not bad), a smooth string section and driving drums. The
original riff only returns for intro/outro sections and the verses, which
perhaps is enough to hammer it home without overkill. It actually supports the
melody surprisingly well considering how it’s actually battling the vocals at
times for level in the mix, and how it plays little of the notes that Sara’s
actually singing. Speaking of, Sara’s on as good a vocal form as ever, and
after watching an acoustic version, reminds that she is not put off by the big
or high notes, and will go for each one without fear. You’ve got to admire that
in a world where even half the country charts are autotuned and the singers couldn’t
even pull off a simple song with a tiny range live (though for some reason they
put effects on her voice going into the instrumental/bridge).
The melody is also interesting, with little tricks and
dances that play with tempo, such as “but I’m out this time”, and the
descending extension on “down” at the end of the chorus. Melodic twirls is a
pretty accurate name for them. This adds something to a song that at the basis
of it is fairly conventional. I’m glad on the one hand that Sara hasn’t sold herself
to the trends, and the lyrics of wanting to leave but also offering her lover a
chance to stop her highlight the complex emotions and conflict involved in
ending a relationship. However, aside from what I’ve already mentioned, there’s
not a lot to allow ‘Slow Me Down’ to stand out, and I also worry that with
females’ current lack of success in country music, and the age that Sara is (it
seems women hit 40 and drop off the face of the Earth in this business), it won’t
reach the chart position it should.
Based on the song alone where trends don’t infect the
charts, I would expect a top 10, but in this climate Sara might be lucky to get
top 30. I hope I’m wrong though, I really do, because there’s certainly merit
here and it’s nice to hear new music from her.