The late '60's and early '70's were a golden age for British folk guitar. In those days it wasn't enough to be just a singer/songwriter; you were expected to be a really good guitar picker too. Dave Evans was not simply good , he was that rarer thing, a real original. With tunings and chord sounds that nobody had produced before, an agile and bouncy picking style, a self-made guitar that rang like a bell, a nicely creaky and lived-in vocal style, and songs that told down-to-earth stories-well-observed little vignettes about real people-his 1971 debut "The Worlds In Between" was hailed as a classic. Head and shoulders above many other now-cult artifacts from that era, this long overdue re-release on it's 30th. Anniversary adds 5 tracks from his 1972 album "Elephantasia"
Musical fame and reputations are built on many things: being good at what you do can help, but even better is to have released albums on small indie labels that fetch a king's ransom today, to be well away from the performing circuit, and, if possible, to die young and have a good-looking corpse (vide Buckley, T., Drake, N., Buckley, J., etc.). Dave Evans fits the bill on all but the last of these requirements, and is happily making and repairing guitars in Brussels instead (not so glamorous, maybe, but much, much healthier). His first album is now re-released after 30 years, and is a "lost classic" that really lives up to its name. Recorded on a two-track in a Bristol basement, Evans's self-made guitar rings and growls away, perfectly in sympathy with some bizarre tunings (the instrumental "Insanity Rag" is a good example), and shows its maker to be up there with the Guitar Greats, British Division One (vide Jansch, Carthy, Graham, Renbourn, etc.). In addition, Evans's songs are written to exploit both his left-field compositional sense and his matter-of-fact voice; and they are an appealing mix of slices of everyday life ("Rosie", "Doorway", "City Road" and the autobiographical "Sailor") and more abstract themes (the title track, "Magic Man", and "Now Is The Time"). The mood is relaxed and conversational, with on some tracks additional guitar, female backing vocals and harmonica, but there is an intensity in the guitar playing and an immediacy in the tales being told that catches the listener and demands further playing. Five tracks from the follow-up Bristol album, Elephantasia
, are included, with "Beauty Queen" and "St Agnes Park" the standouts, plus the loony-toon title track. All in all, this should not only allow oldies to replace their vinyl or even find a copy, but hopefully be the inspiration for current aspiring guitarists and songwriters, as an example that intricacy and virtuosity need not mean musical over-complexity or lyrical obscurity. Fab and groovy, indeed.
© fRoots Magazine all rights reserved -- fRoots, July 2001