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CD reviews

02/08/2010

 

reviews of Dan Evans' CD albums

 

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Au Vieux Moulin CD sleeve

 

DSM7 / Au Vieux Moulin

English mountain dulcimer player Dan Evans from Olney, will need little introduction to long-time Nonsuch members.  Dan has been a regular tutor and performer at our flagship Launde event over the years.  He is also a popular teacher at US dulcimer festivals, where he is particularly valued for his distinctive dulcimer technique.  Dan plays fingerstyle, using dulcimers with only three strings and a strictly diatonic fretboard – i.e. with no half frets.  In many ways, Dan continues the path established by his initial inspiration and, later, friend, Roger Nicholson.

 

On this, his 5th album, Dan is joined by English singer Rebecca Hallworth and by Andy Crowdy on bass, guitar and percussion.  On two tracks, Dan duets with the great US dulcimer virtuoso Stephen Seifert from Nashville, Tennessee.  There are a mixture of original Dan Evans compositions and standards, ranging from John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” and Cyril Tawney’s “The Grey Funnel Line”, to a much-developed version of a traditional US children’s song, “Watch the Stars”.


The packaging is a visual treat, highlighting Dan’s skills as a professional photographer.  The lavish gatefold sleeve and insert booklet feature pictures of a beautiful French mill – a pastoral setting which complements perfectly the cumulative impact of the music and gives the CD its title.

 

"he displays a lyricism and freedom of expression which is truly exhilarating"


Dan’s trademark clarity and precision of playing style is present throughout, and at its best he displays a lyricism and freedom of expression which is truly exhilarating.  The opening track “New Lang Syne”, for example, is an enthralling ride around a well-known tune, with some beautiful dynamics.  The CD also signposts, however, a new style which Dan characterises as minimalist – the repetition of short musical phrases, which develop subtly as they repeat and which build musical momentum gradually.  The standout track in this style is “Bullet Train” which riffs off a simple fingerpicking pattern, but exhibits a wide variety of musical ideas and dynamics, including a percussive section where just the skeleton of the phrase remains.  Stephen Seifert’s two contributions add his distinctive punch and flair for improvisation to Dan’s lyrical playing.


The instrumental compositions – mainly dulcimer, with a few guitar interludes - are complemented by a variety of modern and traditional songs, sung by Dan and/or Rebecca.  Rebecca’s pure voice and Dan’s sensitive accompaniment combine perfectly on a re-working of the old Fairport Convention song “Farewell, Farewell”.  Dan’s version of a song new to me, “Columbine” by Hope Mirrlees and Bob Stuart, also plays brilliantly to the strengths of his light and flexible vocals.


All in all, this is a very satisfying listen.  The sound quality of the CD is excellent and Dan’s playing is never less than immaculate – a great balance of new and old, tunes and songs, the old lyrical style and a new, more insistent Dan Evans sound.  I, for one, am eager to find out in which direction he goes next.

 

Geoff Reeve-Black writing for Nonsuch News - the newsletter of the UK dulcimer club



Dan Evans Let It Be Me CD cover

 

DSM6 / Let It Be Me
Englishman Dan Evans has been captivating audiences at concerts and festivals here in the States since his first trip to our fair shores back in 1997.  Let It Me Be is Dan’s first recording since 2002 and he admits that it’s long overdue but my ears tell me that it has been well worth the wait. He gets some super support from Sylvia Seaton on violin, Andy Crowdy on nylon-string guitar and string bass, and from Hilary Davies on harmony vocals.

 

The new recording focuses on traditional folk songs from the British Isles and showcases Dan’s clear and precise dulcimer and guitar playing along with his superb vocals.  He has a very natural vocal style with a warm presence that definitely complements his great dulcimer playing. His guitar playing on the non-dulcimer numbers features dulcimer-like open tunings which, similar to his finger-style dulcimer playing, incorporates interesting rhythmic textures and flowing melodic lines.  Above all, I am gobsmacked by Dan’s amazing ability to provide such compelling and lyrical dulcimer accompaniments to his singing.

 

"I am gobsmacked by Dan’s amazing ability to provide such compelling and lyrical dulcimer accompaniments to his singing."

 

The material ranges from spritely dance tunes to powerful songs with a message with an emphasis on stately traditional tunes with some contemporary flourishes.  Highlights for me were his version of Amanda Broom's The Rose, Let It Be Me, and We May and Might Never. You’ll note that I am very partial to the vocals but I’m betting you’ll love it all.


Neal Walters writing for the Dulcimer Players News, USA


 

Autumn Dance CD cover

 

DSM5 / Autumn Dance
Englishman Dan Evans plays guitar and mountain dulcimer. Occasionally, he manages a trip across the water to teach a workshop or perform in concert here in the States and a fortunate few of you will know him from these all too infrequent visits. Autumn Dance should serve to introduce him properly to a far larger number of people on this side of the Atlantic. It might help initially to say that his guitar playing reminds me not a little of Martin Simpson and his dulcimer playing is influenced by a long and  fruitful friendship with Roger Nicholson, perhaps the best known dulcimer play from England.

 

The new album is filled with wonderful music that ranges from the moody and introspective She Moves Through the Fair and In The Bleak Midwinter / Spring’s Promise, to very elegant and flowing traditional arrangements of Lord Franklin, I Wish I Wish, The Water Is Wide and The Trees They Do Grow High, and including a delightful and delicate dulcimer rendition of the Beatles’ Let It Be. Sylvia Seaton contributes brilliant violin accompaniment on several numbers and Ruth Cohen Rose joins Dan to supply the vocals. Mary Evans chips in with chimes and rainstick while Martin Vishnick, Andy Crowdy and John Ward provide tasteful guitar, bass and bodhran licks.

 

"the effects he produces on his electro-acoustic guitar are astonishing"

 

Those who know Dan will also appreciate the technical excellence he brings to his the engineering of his albums and that is certainly the case here as well. The effects he produces on his electro-acoustic guitar are astonishing as just one example. This is a superb recording from start to finish and I recommend it highly.

 

Neal Walters writing for the Dulcimer Players News, USA


 

Spirit Dancing CD cover

 

DSM4 / Spirit Dancing
On reading back my own track-by track notes of this CD I found the words ’attractive’ and ‘pleasant‘ occurring again and again. And that really sums up this very professional recording. Unquestionably, Dan Evans is one of this country’s most accomplished performers of both acoustic guitar and dulcimer. He also has a fine voice and, as this 15-track CD demonstrates, is a skilled songwriter and arranger.

 

"one of this country’s most accomplished performers"


The album is a good mixture of songs and instrumentals, traditional and contemporary. It benefits from an impressive array of accompanying musicians including classical guitarist Martin Vishnick, whose work is to the fore on Dan’s self-penned The Seed Is Sown. Roger Nicholson, another fine exponent of the dulcimer, duets instrumentally with Dan on some of their own arrangements of traditional tunes. Self-penned songs such as Forever and Me and You demonstrate both Dan’s song writing talents and his pre-occupation with love songs. The latter is one of a number of tracks to feature the haunting harmonies of Elaine Samuels. The Journey, one of his own instrumental compositions, fully demonstrates Dan’s outstanding guitar playing talent.

 

There are some highly individual arrangements of well-known songs, including Bill Caddick’s lovely song Unicorns and, unusually and unexpectedly, the Paul Anka / Buddy Holly song It Doesn’t Matter Any More.

 

Well thought out, highly polished and attractively packaged, this CD deserves a wide audience.

 

Alan Hibbert, Folk In Kent magazine


 

Guardian Spirit CD cover

 

DSM3  / Guardian Spirit
Dan Evans is a consummate artiste who presents us here with a superbly professional and polished recording. He has recruited three equally skilled artists to abet him in this venture – singer Michèle Welbourn, Jenny Newman to play fiddle and viola and John Ward to play bodhran and cymbal.  Dan himself plays mainly acoustic guitar, sometimes electro-acoustic guitar and in one instance Appalachian dulcimer. The fourteen tracks comprise a variety of songs both traditional and contemporary, including several of Dan’s own, plus his instrumental composition Heartbeat – subtle rhythms very much to my own liking.

 

"a superbly professional and polished recording"

 

Michèle Welbourn, an excellent singer in her own right, sings two of the songs, the traditional Davey Lowston (the opening track) and Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town.  Dan’s light and pleasing voice is heard on eleven songs, The Golden Vanity, Lord Franklin, The Rose;  Was it When and The Errand Boy, both self-penned; Columbine, on which he also plays Appalachian dulcimer, The Unquiet Grave, Watch the Stars (with traditional lyrics which Dan has set to music); Only You, Spencer The Rover and Let it Be Me. On these last three Michèle sings in duet with Dan - a delightful blend of voices.

 

For me, Dan Evans’ unique instrumental artistry is the outstanding feature of this entire recording. Buy it listen to it; be uplifted. It is people like himself who help to bring traditional folk music into the twentieth century and give it some contemporary relevance.

 

Monni Aldous,  Essex Folk News  magazine



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