Roots rock wild man Evan Johns returns with a taut but tasty trick bag that should fire the faithful, and make a few new friends, too. The sensibility that infused “Ugly Man” is proudly evident on the slide guitar-greased title track, and the hilarious take on staying sober amid temptation, “Dear Doc.”
Anyone who got acquainted with Johns during his tenure with Danny Gatton, his numerous H-Bomb lineups, or later ’80s solo work already knows of him as a distinctive songwriting voice; that’s not a problem. Smart playing and arranging brighten full-throttle stompers like “Rantin’ ‘N Ravin’,” and “Ever So Desperate.” Johns’ lyrics mostly explore affairs of the heart, which is fine: someone who’s writing snappy three-minute songs could care less about fashion, and that’s only to the good.
But there are plenty of twists, too. The stripped-down acoustic country “All Your Cheatin'” dishes out equal opportunity stick to both sexes for straying from home; the million-dollar question “What is with this other man?” yields to “What is with this other girl?” The biggest surprises are “Love Thing” and “Tradin’ Lullabies” – two sparse country ballads that show Johns in his most heartfelt vocal guise.
Of course, no Evan Johns album could pass without some pyrotechnic guitar comment. He deals out plenty on the appropriately titled “Surf Don’t Crawl” and “Acid Daze.” “Shootin’ The Merle” is naturally a more country-oriented instrumental affair, while “El Rey De Roto Corazon” comes at the headphones from a midtempo Latin angle.
Like their vocal counterparts, however, the instrumentals stay pithy and on point: Johns makes his statement and switches to the next one, which shows the mark of a mature player. “Dancin’ Till The End Of Time” closes the album in rousing fashion, and makes a good credo for Johns’s approach. Welcome to Evan’s world: you won’t be disappointed.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.