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John Evans Band

Ramblin' Boy

It was understood but unspoken. We knew from the way he played, the clothes and the attitude that John Evans was too smart and hip to be part of the group of Texas music yahoos he was identified with a few years back when he was winning all those Houston Press Country and Western Artist of the Year awards, and when he was a favorite of the River Oaks Redneck. Evans played along, but once onstage in the right setting, he always leaned toward something a little heavier, a little more theatrical, a little less dumbass. The shows at Fitzgerald's were always more interesting than the shows at Blanco's and The Firehouse.

Ramblin' Boy, the follow-up to Circling the Drain, finds Evans rocking very hard on everything from a hyper-kinetic do-Freddie Mercury-proud version of Hayes Carll's "Ramblin' Boy" to "Five Seconds at a Time," an edgy, finely drawn ode to a female bartender. Just when we think Evans has forsaken us for Rhett Miller, Queen and Cheap Trick, he lays down a nasty garage version of Freddie Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" that may be the most interesting thing that's ever happened to that old chestnut. And cowpunk innovators Jason and the Scorchers couldn't slam Nashville any harder than Evans does when he sings Music Row "fired Johnny Cash but they kept his guitars." Now, I'm not sure if Evans or co- producer Steve Christensen really knew where this thing was going when they got the keys to the room with all the knobs in it, but the scratchy closing song, "Honky Tonks of Old," with its pissed-off Texan line -- "I'm not shootin' pool / in some disco country bar" -- seems to nail exactly what they were after.

With Ramblin' Boy, Evans continues to stretch and experiment. He hasn't made a career-defining album yet, but one senses he's getting close.

 
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