CD Review – Celia Evans “The Road”
They say you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover, but the front and back covers of Folksinger/ Songwriter Celia Evans’ latest CD “The Road” give a pretty good indication of what this recording holds
The pictures portray a woman resolutely walking a winding gravel road, holding on to nothing but her guitar. On the front we see her back, and vise versa. The faded edges of the photographs give a hint of a nostalgic aura, but the stride is determined and purposeful, ever moving on.
These twelve original songs seem fit those images. This is Ms. Evans fourth CD, and in many ways her best so far. Although not well known as a performer outside of the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York, the thoughts and feelings she writes and sings about transcend geographical borders, and often time itself. The lyrics paint vivid pictures, and Celia’s voice, singing melodies and harmonies, ranges from a husky whisper to lilting and soaring, often with in the same song. Postcards from the winding, and sometimes lonely, Road of life, Evans’ subject material covers romantic relationships, philosophy, nature, and parenting with disarming and sometimes brutal honesty. She can turn a good phrase with any gifted songwriter, and has a flair for the double entendre.
The music is (almost) all acoustic, and as with her previous albums, enhances the beauty of the songs. Recorded by Roy Hurd at Hurdsong Studios in Lake Clear, NY and mastered by Mark Elliot at Nashville’s Cub Creek Sound, this is a very well recorded, mixed, and produced CD; thoughtfully arraigned. George Viscome plays his understated bass on almost all tracks, and John Foster handles most of the percussion and drums. Jim Schacher adds acoustic leads, whimsical and meandering on the liberating opening track “Just Because”, focused delightful triads and arpeggios on “I Still Believe”, and a sweet dobro line on “Grace,” on which Evans sings a sort of round with herself.
“Chickadee”, an upbeat, almost bluegrass number full of bits of wisdom, features the interplay of Hurd’s banjo with Daun Reuter’s peppy mandolin. Jeff Rendinaro’s harmonica punctuates the introspective title track “The Road.”
The hunting “Doppelganger”, with Doug Moody’s melancholy fiddle, is like stepping into an disconcerting Twilight Zone episode. Every day is Valentine ’s Day in “Romance”, which should at least help Hallmark sell a few cards, and be a boost the local florists and chocolate confectioners.
My favorite song on this CD is “More Than One Good Way”, with its’ horticultural imagery. Evans shows her guitar versatility, alternating between rhythmic strumming and concise fingerpicking while Reuter’s mandolin line weaves its way through the song.
“It’s Not You” is a mother’s love note to her daughters and is highlighted by a stunning flute intro by Mary Lou Reid and some nice slide licks.
Although written about the Adirondacks, “Hopeful Landscape” could be about any special place in the world. Cathy Marczyk’s hammer dulcimer adds an Appalachian feel to this almost hymn-like anthem. It’s a song that should be taught to grade-schoolers as an aid to learning real environmentalism. That isn’t surprising, as Ms. Evans’ “day job” is an environmental professor at Paul Smith’s College. And “Hold On” continues that educational theme, encouraging another generation of idealists to keep pushing forward.
The album concludes with the slightly bawdy, slightly tongue in cheek “In The Company of Adirondack Women.” It’s a chick song, not hard to imagine that it would be a favorite around Girl Scout campfires, but probably most guys who’ve ever canoed or hiked in the Adirondacks would have to admit to wishing for one of those “Adirondack Women” to come into their lives. Larry Stone lays aside his Telecaster to help out on National steel guitar, and his picking adds resonant texture to the song.