Evan Johns & the
Hillbilly Soul Surfers,
(Big Cypress, 2001)

I've never heard anything like Evan Johns, and you haven't, either. Hopping between surf and psychobilly with everything in between, belting out often indecipherable lyrics in his gravely, pre-distorted voice, Evan Johns has been described as a country singer, but only if you took country and ran the voltage for a good-sized amplifier through it. Moontan, a hopped-up compilation from Big Cypress Records, puts some of his best on display.

I've listened to "Dear Doc," the opening song, five times without being able to make out exactly what the lyrics are. Still, the general plot seems to follow the "Doc, I'm messed up with love, fix it" plot, to the accompaniment of Hillbilly Surfer's excellent rock. "Ever So Desperate" changes tone, dipping towards the Richie Valens school of rock 'n' roll. It may this situation that drives him to "Rantin' and Ravin.'" "Love Thang" shows Johns' exquisite poetry, as he soulfully conveys to his girl that they share something special. But for my money, the best of the desperate loves songs is "All Your Cheatin'," through which Johns manages to rock in spite of the tragic betrayal of a girl who can't even be satisfied by other men. Because of the unusual vocals, it's hard to make out the details on this one, but it's well worth the listen.

Johns has a reputation as much for his wild guitar as his distinctive voice, and four instrumentals show off his skills. "Surf Don't Crawl," a terrific surf music tune, suffers only from being too short. "El Rey Do Roto Corazon" echoes the surf theme, but with a more southwestern rock flair, while "Acid Wave" provides as good a title for this new wild version of surf music as I can think of. But my favorite of the instrumentals is the more country-flavored "Shootin' the Merle," a song that for me summons up the strange atmosphere of an old Fleischer cartoon. Something about it just brings up images of dancing furniture.

It's unlikely Evan Johns is ever going to get played on your local big-budget radio station, which only makes it more important for you to go out and pick up this album for yourself. 'Cause baby, we all need a little more Love Thang in our lives.

[ by Sarah Meador ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002