With her seventh album, SARA EVANS proves yet again that she’s a country force to be reckoned with.

Sara Evans is one of those rare talents. From the first verse, she’s able to hook listeners into a song and leave them on the edge of their seat as they wait to hear how it all turns out. She’s been doing this since her 1997 debut, Three Chords and the Truth, and she does it again with her seventh record, Slow Me Down (RCA Nashville, $13), out early next month.

The title track is a perfect example of the conviction Evans brings to a tune. “I didn’t write ‘Slow Me Down,’ but I chose to record it based on the emotional level that it brought me to just listening to it,” she says. “What I love about it is how the singer wants to stay; she knows that she has to go, but she’s hoping so badly that he’ll stop her.”

Another example of Evans’ gift, and one of her favorite tracks on Slow Me Down, is a duet with The Fray front man Isaac Slade called “Can’t Stop Loving You.”

“They told me to think of different people whom I might want to do the song with; I wanted to pick someone from another genre, so I chose Isaac,” Evans says of how the collaboration came together. “I have always been a huge fan of The Fray.”

The 11 songs on Slow Me Down straddle the fence of both pop and country, but the New Franklin, Mo., native reveals there’s a particular number that reflects the traditional country she was raised on. “There’s one called ‘Better Off’ that Vince Gill put harmony on,” Evans says. “It’s completely the kind of country that I grew up singing and listening to. It’s sort of like Patty Loveless-esque.”

Evans recorded vocals for the new album in Nashville at Reba McEntire’s Starstruck Studios. She says the experience was a special one thanks to producer Mark Bright, with whom she had joined forces before on 2005’s Real Fine Place.

“Mark is just so fun to work with,” Evans says. “What he gives me is such positive feedback, and he’s a ‘song’ guy. I think that’s his biggest gift of all: picking songs.”

Now that the album is finished, Evans will be hitting the road, and that’s where the real work starts. “There are a lot of really challenging songs vocally that definitely will require me working hard at the live shows.” With the release of Slow Me Down, she’ll be doing anything but.