Dave Evans is a sure-fingered banjo player with a dark, Southern voice that he occasionally pushes into the tenor range. It's a sober, hard-country voice that Evans makes the most of on "A Few More Seasons," a solid collection of bluegrass gospel tunes.
Add a mandolin to the mix and Evans' band, River Bend, would be identical to Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys -- melding with banjo, fiddle, bass and guitar. A couple of Stanley tunes on "A Few More Seasons" makes the comparison all the harder to avoid. But Evans' staunch traditionalism suggests broader influences, including George Jones and some of country music's less malleable voices.
At his best, Evans wrings emotion from these songs of redemption with sincerity. His ballads, especially "Take Me Home Saviour" and "Lonely Tombs," are earnest and expressive. Other songs -- such as "No Hiding Place Down Here" (the secular version is the popular folk tune "Mama Don't Allow") and "Jesus Never Fails" (a recitation) -- are well performed, but are either too spirited or too restrained to tap Evans' strength as a singer.
Instrumentally, the album is distinguished by fiddler Tommy Cordell's often bitter refrains and the simple yet seldom routine alliance forged by Evans, guitarist Landon Messer, mandolinist Willard Reynolds and bassist Mike Smith. This is a fine album that should win the ears of bluegrass traditionalists everywhere. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM DAVE EVANS -- A Few More Seasons (Rebel REB 1608). THE SHOW DAVE EVANS, Friday and Saturday at the Birchmere.