Sounding renewed and self-confident, Sara Evans returns to record-making after a six-year absence with Stronger. Evans puts to rest any doubts about her artistic commitment by co-writing half of Stronger’s songs and singing them with verve and conviction. The survivor’s spirit coursing through “A Little Bit Stronger” sets the tone for the album as a whole. The road anthem “Anywhere” and the romantic story-song “Ticket to Ride” are bursts of pure positive energy. There’s sorrow in these tracks as well, heard most achingly in “Alone” (a lover’s plea for space) and “What That Drink Cost Me” (one of the most powerful anti-drinking songs in recent memory). Sonically, the album moves Evans towards a more contemporary Nashville approach, pairing rock-guitar riffage with twanging dobros and keening fiddles. A bluegrass-tinged treatment of her signature hit “Born to Fly” closes the album on a more traditional note. Overall, Stronger both acknowledges the upheavals in Evans’ life and transcends them with hard-won optimism.