Born in Boonville, Missouri and moving to Nashville in The '90s, she signed a deal with RCA Records Nashville after songwriter Harlan Howard heard her demo tape, which included a cover of Buck Owens' "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail". Her debut album Three Chords and the Truth was critically lauded for a traditional twangy sound, but none of its singles were well-received by radio.
Her breakthrough came in 1998 with No Place That Far, whose Vince Gill-backed title track became her first #1 hit. But it was Born to Fly in 2000 that sent her into stardom, pushing her to a bigger and more pop-influenced sound while not entirely abandoning her country roots. The title track of "Born to Fly" remains one of her biggest hits, along with a cover of Edwin McCain's "I Could Not Ask for More". Restless (2003) had more than two years' worth of singles on it, including "Suds in the Bucket", followed by Real Fine Place in 2005 with its own title track, a cover of Radney Foster's "A Real Fine Place to Start".
Around the release of her Greatest Hits album, she began to see diminishing returns on the charts, and her sixth studio album Stronger was delayed due to its originally-intended lead single "Feels Just Like a Love Song" being withdrawn. "A Little Bit Stronger", co-written by Lady Antebellum's co-lead singer Hillary Scott, went on to become her last big hit.
Evans' big hits chronicle themes of love ("No Place That Far"), ambition ("Born to Fly"), elopement ("Suds in the Bucket"), and overcoming failed relationships ("A Little Bit Stronger"). Allmusic wrote that she "imbues radio ready songs with neo-traditional flair."
- Three Chords and the Truth (1997)
- No Place That Far (1998)
- Born to Fly (2000)
- Restless (2003)
- Real Fine Place (2005)
- Greatest Hits (2007)
- Stronger (2011)
- Slow Me Down (2014)
- At Christmas (2014)
- Words (2017)
- Copy That (2020)
Tropes present in her work:
- Advertised Extra: She was credited for her background vocals on The Warren Brothers' "That's the Beat of a Heart".
- Christmas Songs: At Christmas (2014) is all covers of traditional holiday fare, save for the title track.
- Concept Album: An unintentional example: every track on Words has at least one female writer.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Her debut album was extremely twangy traditional country, including covers of Buck Owens and Patsy Cline. It was also produced by Pete Anderson, best known for his work with Dwight Yoakam. All of her subsequent albums have had a much poppier sound.
- Elopement: In "Suds in the Bucket", a young woman elopes with her man, leaving "the suds in the bucket and the clothes hangin' out on the line".
- Female Gaze: Occurs in "As If": "I love the way you wear those worn out blue jeans / Walkin' all around in the big sunshine".
- Loudness War: Many of the songs on Real Fine Place and her Greatest Hits Album clip due mainly to overly loud bass.
- Romantic Hyperbole: "No Place That Far":If I had to run
If I had to crawl
If I had to swim a hundred rivers
Just to climb a thousand walls
Always know that I would find a way
To get to where you are
Baby, there's no place that far
- Self-Backing Vocalist: She sings a round with herself at the end of "Coalmine".
- Single Stanza Song: "Shame About That", although the last lines are sung twice.
- Spoken Word in Music: "I Keep Looking" opens with a baby giggling and Sara saying, "That cracked me up."
- Three Chords and the Truth: Her song of this name has the narrator changing her mind on a relationship after hearing an unspecified song on the radio.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "No Place That Far" goes from C Major to D Major on the last chorus.
- Your Cheating Heart: "Cheatin'" makes fun of her man, pointing out that he's now living in a rundown trailer and driving a beat-up car because he had been cheating.