Album Review of
Pretty Green Hills

Written by Joe Ross
April 20, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
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Dave Evans' latest of many albums on the Rebel label, "Pretty Green Hills" comes in a pretty green package and was recorded at Tom T. and Dixie Hall's Studio in Tennessee. Besides the song credits, I wish a few more liner notes would have been provided. Evans is originally from Ohio, but last I heard he was living in Morehead, Kentucky. Dave's parents had realized he had an interest in music. Dave was learning accordion when his mom purchased a banjo for his father. By age 13, Dave was writing his own songs. 

One of the few banjo-playing lead singers in bluegrass, Evans first professional job was in 1968 with Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys. In 1972, Dave joined Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. From 1975-1978, he worked with Lillimae & the Dixie Gospelaires, Red Allen & the Kentuckians, Boys from Indiana, and Goins Brothers. In 1978, he formed his own group "River Bend." From 1989-1995, his life and music took a detour while he did time for an assault conviction. In 1996, Evans began performing and recording again for Rebel Records. 

Driving bluegrass written by Carter Stanley ("Our Last Goodbye") opens this album, and the trio also features Bo Isaac's tenor and bass-player Mike Garris' baritone harmony. This is an interesting bluegrass project because it features such a variety of slow- and faster-tempo'ed songs with solo, duo, and trio vocalizing. Other trios are the title track about returning home to die (written by the Halls), "Sea of Regret" and "Cora is Gone" (both with Bo up on a high-baritone), and Lester Flatt's "Head Over Heels." 

More often in this set, we hear Evans singing in solo arrangements. An original, "Should I Go, Should I Stay," is an inquiring lonesome tale featuring only Dave's guitar and voice. His own self-penned "Down and Out Again" has Dave and Bo wailing together as a duet on choruses. Banjo, fiddle, bass and solo voice steer "East Virginia Blues" in an expressive, distinctive and very lonesome direction. To forgo the guitar's inclusion makes for an interesting and distinguishing free-flowing 4-minute rendition of this classic. The material has a very strong traditional flavor, and I was curious about his choice to include Tom T.'s "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died" that seems a tad out of place in the set but does provide a bit of diversity. 

One instrumental ("Soldier's Joy") is included in the set. Besides Evans and Garris, the band is Randy Thomas (guitar, mandolin), Dave Miner (Dobro on 3 cuts), Merl Johnson (bass, guitar, fiddle), and Bobby Hicks (fiddle). Bo Isaac also fiddles on "Cora is Gone." Another fine set with a lot of feeling and sentiment from Dave Evans. (Joe Ross)