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JIM EVANS - On Seeds And Shoes

JIM EVANS - On Seeds And Shoes
Little Paradise Records LPR004

The surname of Evans, and an album coming out of Bristol, works like a madeleine cake on me, and takes me back four decades to another Mr Evans – Dave - who came to national prominence on another Bristol indie label. Let us hope that Little Paradise Records get the national prominence that Village Thing Records achieved back in the day.

Is this album a sign that they are going in the right direction? Well, before I answer that, let me set the scene a little.

This is the follow-up album by Jim Evans to his 2012 CD, 12 Folk Songs. This was his take on some classics of American roots music. Alas, I never got to hear it: my loss, I am sure.

On this new album, Jim has the confidence to give us all 12 numbers from his own pen. But whilst he does not collaborate on the song writing, the performing is quite another matter. He surrounds himself with some very tasty musicians: too numerous to give them all a mention, but I must pick out Angharad Jenkins for her imaginative fiddle work on Polly Ann! Polly Ann! (Jim's own take on the time-worn tale of John Henry and his famous hammer).

I also much enjoyed the backing harmony vocals of Rebecca Philip, and as for the work of multi-instrumentalist Mark Legassick, well, it just oozed authority from first to last.

The album's mood is essentially a reflective one: it is a deeply serious collection of songs without ever bordering on the depressing. The mood veers from contemplative to angry. He delivers his songs in a tuneful strong baritone, that has a touch of the mid-atlantic in some of the vowel sounds. (Not that this should necessarily worry Mr Evans: not singing in a particularly English-sounding accent, has never seemed to bother – or hinder – Elton John, for instance!)

Jim's lyrics are well crafted, and God Bless him, he does not settle for assonance, but seeks to go instead for rhyme. And the songs have decent, if unremarkable, melodies. Actually, let me breathe in those last two words, because the best track of the album has a tune I cannot quite get out of my head.

Song For Gembo (the penultimate number) features some haunting fiddle from Ms Jenkins, and some very respectable banjo work from Jim himself. And it moved me greatly.

Jim missed a bit of a trick here in not providing a liner notes' booklet. I really would have liked to have known more about the writing of this particular song (and indeed, several of the others). But that is a minor caveat. Don't let that stop you enjoying this CD. I have a feeling it will win a lot more fans than it will get detractors.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.