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Evan Johns

Moontan – 2002 (Big Cypress)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Evan Johns

Teaming with the highly accomplished Hillbilly Soul Surfers, journeyman rockabilly Evan Johns conjures an evocative mix of chord crunching roots rock and fluid surfabilly.

Johns, former lead guitarist for the LeRoi Brothers, recorded a slew of eclectic solo projects during the '80s and '90s. Unfortunately, not many of them communicated the full scope of this artist's onstage intensity and creative drive. Finally, the 46-year old Johns has found a backing band worthy of his superior songwriting skills and manic energy. The Los Angeles based Hillbilly Soul Surfers (Grant Harvey bass, Sherman LeRoi guitar, pedal steel, guitar, organ, Eric Jerde drums) beautifully execute exotica-influenced surf ("El Rey De Roto Corazon," "Acid Surf"), and imbues rockabilly ("Dear Doc," "Rantin' And Ravin'") with pleasing overtones of garage band raunch.

Johns wrote all 12 songs, contributes some tasty mandolin ("Love Thang") and is at his best when he recklessly rocks ("Ever So Desperate") or contrives tongue-in-cheek country/surf instrumentals ("Shootin' The Merle"). By contrast, his craggy, whiplash voice undermines the tender intentions of his ballads. However, on balance, the tremendous chemistry he achieves with the Hillbilly Soul Surfers makes for a very appealing, strongly recommended outing. (Big Cypress