Thursday, June 30, 2022

Laura Evans - State Of Mind

Well now.  I came to State Of Mind without any real expectations.  Laura Evans hadn’t really made any impression on me before.  Still, might as well give it a spin, I thought, and pressed play on the opening track, ‘I’m Alright’.
Chunky, fuzzy guitar chords roll over steadily thumping drums, making like ‘Spirit In The Sky’.  Then Laura Evans swings into play, her vocal playing off the rhythm very nicely.  She’s got a bit of a girlish voice, but she knows what she’s doing with it, and punches home the catchy chorus
Laura Evans - Here's looking at you, kid!
Pic by Rob Blackham
rather well, thank you.  They drop down into a bridge involving subtle call-and-response with some fiddly guitar, but on the whole this is three minutes of keeping it simple. One might argue that it’s too simple, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.
By “them” I mean Evans and her producer, engineer, sometime co-writer, and generally player of every instrument on the album Josiah J. Manning, otherwise familiar as a Kris Barras Band member and producer.  Oh yeah, and credit too to Ms Evans’ platoon of other co-writers, because there’s a bevy of decent tunes on display here.
‘State Of Mind’ itself is in a similar mould to ‘I’m Alright’, opening with a rolling riff over a ticking cymbal, just to “start you up” as it were, while Evans rattles out the verse.  Then it shifts sideways into the kind of lighter, hooky chorus that’s one of the trademarks of the album.
A few tunes are vaguely in an Elles Bailey rootsy vein.  ‘Solo’ wavers between bluesy work song grinding, and airier, acoustically backed melody, though with some rather naff lyrics thrown in, it has to be said.  ‘Let You Down Easy’ takes hints of Oleta Adams’ ‘Get Here (If You Can)’ and fashions an acoustically driven slice of country-pop.  On ‘Drag Me Back In’ rolling bass is the backdrop for Evans’ clear delivery, and though the verse and chorus feel a bit disconnected it’s still foot-tapping fare, with some added oomph towards the end pushing it towards Buckingham-Nicks era Mac.  And best of this lot is possibly ‘Gone’, with its handclaps and injections of slide.  That baby that done left you, Mr Bluesman?  This is the song she was singing as she walked out the door.
There are also two high tariff ballads.  The first, ‘Fool’, is a guitar and voice arrangement that’s simple and effective, never gets overblown, and is enhanced by some exquisite Minnie Riperton-like falsetto from Evans. And ‘Mess Of Me’ is a quality affair too, redolent of Irene Cara’s ‘Out Here On My Own’, but diminuendo, as they say in these parts.  It comes with a convincingly moving lyric, and Evans’ vocal variations give the melody a fillip here and there.
Straying further from yer typical Blues Enthused fare, ‘Fire With Fire’ and ‘Good At Getting Over You’ are essentially quality pop songs – think Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ maybe.  ‘Fire With Fire’ eases in with simple drums and stuttering, low-end guitar, while Evans’ vocal is spot-on, and the melody is catchy to the point of “where have I heard that before?”  Meanwhile ‘Good At Getting Over You’ is light and bouncy over the pulsing, subdued rhythm section, and there’s a breather as the bridge cools things off before things swell to hammer home the chorus again.
It's only with the closing, rootsy-by-numbers ‘Free’ that I get a sense of samey-ness abroad.  But still, this ain’t one-trick pony territory.  Laura Evans seems like a vivacious kinda gal, and there’s a similar, summery liveliness to her music.  State Of Mind didn't knock me sideways, but it did make me pay attention.  Like that opening track suggests, she's alright, is Laura.
State Of Mind is released by Rosie Music on 1 July, and can be ordered here.
Laura Evans will be the special guest on Matt Andersen’s UK tour in October.

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