Sara Evans, "Slow Me Down" (RCA Nashville)

For years, Evans has been smiling through wounds, one of country music's underappreciated tragic heroes. Few singers speak more directly to the dissatisfactions of middle age than she does. "Slow Me Down" is her seventh album, and though it traverses a range of musical moods — sinister, cheery, lonesome and more — she's rarely in anything but a vexed mood. On the smooth '80s rock of "Can't Stop Loving You," a duet with Isaac Slade of the Fray, she's quivering. "You Never Know" is pure '90s power country, but put in service of broken love. What elevates these beyond mere plaints is Evans' robust and sweet voice. She sings with power, grace and dignity. A highlight is the elegant "Better Off," a letter to someone fighting for the strength to leave a bad relationship. Even though she is filled with righteous anger, she's keeping it together, and that's what makes her stand out.


streaming audio

Hauschka, the German pianist, makes artful instrumental music and hip, intelligent dance music on "Abandoned City," which will be released Tuesday, but is now streaming at Hype Machine.

jon bream