John Evans. Photo: Brandon Holley
There might a good chance that you don’t know the name John Evans. The tall and lanky singer songwriter who dons Buddy Holly frames hasn’t dropped a new album in over six years. That’s not an uncommon time frame in the music world, but for a guy who had built up as much steam as Evans’ had going, it’s almost a lifetime. That time difference was primarily due to the fact that Evans was dealing with the loss of his daughter, Abigail after her battle with a rare skin disease. As she was integral in Evans’ career whether it be travelling on the road with him, selling merchandise at his gigs, or even singing background on an album Evans produced, the immense loss of her focused the singer songwriter on healing and while realizing how much of an inspiration she was to his work. After pushing back the album’s release, Evans has decided to give these songs to the world. On this, his “comeback” album, Polyester, Evans returns to form and then some. Recorded in his own living room and produced by Grammy-winning producer Steve Christensen, the Houston native and Austin resident returns stronger than ever in ten solid tracks, mixing hints of his past sounds of rock and country together into something powerful and undeniably beautiful.
Evans doesn’t waste time in ushering in his return on the opening title track, “Polyester.” The track that Evans’ label Splice Records shared with FPH for a debut of the track should showcase what Evan’s has in store for the listeners of the release. Full of fuzz and featuring an insanely catchy hook, the song echoes the better aspects of rock n’ roll before click tracks and image consultants became regular fare. The chorus takes you to a mix of fifties-era rock and seventies nostalgia as close to the clothing that bears the track’s title. When you add to this his use of modern day lyrics that cover hipsters and semesters at school, you have a song that’s bound for a place larger than Evans experienced in past releases. He follows this up with the the troubadour vibes of “Pretty,” where he almost embodies the bulk of the sixties music world. Complete with more hooks than a tackle box and doubled-up vocals in the chorus, Evans seems to really begin a stride that’s full of surprises and melodies that only become stronger with each passing note. There are moments on the song that feel like if The Beatles covered songs by The Sonics, while Evans keeps the song on his own terms and never straying from having its own sound. Around the third track — the trippy and multi-genre based “Dust Bowl” — you begin to realize that Evans isn’t making an album for anyone else and it works in his favor. The song has notes of psych, electronica, and seventies rock that stray from what you’d expect without taking you from Evans’ core sound.
This continues on in the opening of “Sweet Dreams,” before Evans takes you back to the sound he’s become known for. The tremolo-heavy guitar slinks along while a pedal steel rings in the background while Evans’ thick-as-molasses vocals drip on and off the track. The roots side of the roots rocker is now met with the twang of Texas and a soft vocal from Emily Bell that’s closer to a lullaby that feels like he’s singing directly to the listener. When Evans brings back his acoustic for the following song, “Grandma’s Chair,” he adds banjo and a twangy element that makes you glad that he didn’t hang it all up. The softly placed vocals come on so earnestly and magnetic, that you feel like he’s singing directly to you, and that the tale he’s relating is somehow related to you as well. He follows this up with the country-rock bopper, “Instant Society,” where Evans comes closer to Buddy Holly if he wrote with Big Star. The song is one of the many standouts where the singer cultivates a sound that’s a healthy recipe full of the past and the present while making the song one hundred percent his own. Two tracks later, Evans adds many of the elements from previous tracks to sing another slower song on “Until You.” However, it’s his heavy-handed lyrics and honey-dripped vocals that rise to the top here, on a song that would make any woman feel like the only woman alive after hearing it.
The beauty of how Evans approaches the throwback style of “Love Note,” is that he touches on the executional style of acts like The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys, while keeping his country rock style intact. There’s no doubt that the singer’s ability to criss cross a sound that cuts through decades of troubadours, is one of his bigger strengths. When he closes things off with the satiny progressions of “Good Life,” you should have already fallen for his viscous vocals that exude through the pedal steel and the acoustic like another instrument, while the classic country method of the drums in the background keep the song’s pace as leisurely as it pours through your speakers.
This album is being hailed as John Evans’ return, but it’s really just another feather in the cap of an artist that’s never gotten the accolades he’s deserved. While Polyester is easily Evans at his best, the ten-track album gives you all of the melody and guitar tone you’ve been jonesing for as of late while staying beautiful and sentimental when it’s called for. His use of artists like Will Sexton and Scott Davis, to name a few, really showcases the depth of Evans’ songs. You can grab your own copy of Polyester when John Evans performs at Raven Tower on May 14th. The album, is available for preorder here, and the all ages show has an opening set from Nic Armstrong & The Thieves with doors at 7 pm and tickets for $15.