RECORD REVIEW: Tom Evanchuck “Tom”

by Laura McMullen

The first few songs on Cleveland native, Tom Evanchuck’s album, Tom, have lots of talk about train stations, roads, coming home, etc.—the usual sort of reflective, acoustic shtick. But at about two tracks in, it’s clear Tom makes it work better than most.

Sure, there’s the Lonesome Dove sort of fiction lingering behind his ode to his “darlin’ Mayapple,” and in a few tracks where Evanchuck can be pictured leaning against a tree in the Old West—guitar and brow dusty from livin’. But sometimes a guitar and a great voice can turn even the cutest, Ray-Ban-sporting twenty-year old into a weathered cowboy. Cue the bluesy “Bury My Wife” where he declares, “I’m gonna bury my wife under that old pine shade. Lord knows that woman don’t know how to behave.”

This storytelling works because Evanchuck says things simply. In “Morning Train” he declares, “All I wanted is to love you.”

And he’s modest. In “Come One Come All” he sings, “I was born in the bottom and my head fits in no crown. I’d like to thank you all for comin’ around.”

It certainly helps that Evanchuck can also play that guitar really, really well. In “Come One Come All,” he lets his accompaniment bounce softly while he tells the story. The contrast between the tiny, intricate tweeks and harrums pacing quietly in the background as Tom spills his guts only intensifies the feeling that Tom is letting you in on a pretty serious secret.  Goosebumps.

In other songs, Evanchuck lets his instrument do the talking—the notes winding and jumping in perfect time.  That family of the curliest, happiest twangs frantically somersault, one after the other, only to meet up with the bluest voice.

Well, it’s more than a voice. Think the quiet thoughtfulness of Nick Drake, but with the grit of Citizen Cope. It’s a voice with patience—unafraid to hold out a note against the bumbling guitar and decidedly simple when telling a story.

Evanchuck masters the art of impossible calmness and palpable sincerity– only making his twenty years of age more baffling. This voice no-doubedtly picked up its leathery anatomy from decades in the coalmine or lifetimes in a whiskey bottle. Or maybe this is just the best of Cleveland.

Evanchuck’s Tom sounds the best when remembering things in sepia. The man might as well be crooning over a campfire—the stars and the leaves and the smoke pining to participate in his tales. It’s the marriage of storytelling with simple-telling that sells it. And it’s the counter between skittering guitar and uninhibited voice that make it.

– Laura McMullen