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Remembering When: an Achingly Delicious EP from LA Transplant Laura Evans

Patrick O'Heffernan: Remembering When is an artistic triumph, a tour d’force for a debut EP, and with it Laura Evans has staked her claim to stardom.

Remembering When is an artistic triumph, a tour d’force for a debut EP, and with it Laura Evans has staked her claim to stardom.

laura evans

Making the transition from film and television to music is not always easy. Some people never quite make it; others glide into music with their visual entertainment chops totally intact and their music totally awesome because it is their passion. Fortunately for us, Laura J. Evans made the transition smoothly because her music is as bright and exciting as her smile on the big screen and music is her first passion. Evans relocated to Los Angeles from South Wales in the uk after a career in television and film, to pursue her dream, country music. It is easy to understand why she shifted to music when you hear the passion and the sheer talent she puts into her songs.

The UK’s loss is our gain. Working with her co-writer and producer, Jeff Zacharski,

Laura brings a viewpoint and a style to soulful country music – actually to all music - that captures audiences from the first note of this debut EP and tells them, this is a star.

Remembering When is a substantial work, 7 songs, each perfectly and painstakingly crafted, for over 27 minutes of country soul and pop and ballads. But there is something special to these songs. They are not the classic “somebody-done-someone-wrong songs” that inhabit much of the country landscape. They tell stories of heartbreak and redemption and even a Chevy pickup, but Evans’ writing has a universal appeal and deep emotional impact that feels very close to a Mariah Carey or a Johnny Cash. These are real stories about real feelings, whether the people in them are drawn from her life or are composites, they hit home and they create images that form in your mind while your ears luxuriate in the music. Every song is a winner; some are truly remarkable.

The opening song, “Ride” snags your country soul immediately with a mandolin and pedal steel guitar and rolling country ride beat. You know you are in Country country, and when Laura comes in with her sweet classical voice and southern accent, you’re very glad you are. The refrain “I’m gonna ride down this lonely road tonight “ is comfortable, classic CW– tap your feet, clap your hands and take a two-step twirl. But then you listen to the lyrics and stop dead in your tracks:

We’ve been stuck inside this haunting lullaby,/The words that tore apart our trust, our love was built on lies/ And even tho it’s overdue this is my last Goodbye,/No turning back, this fade to black, the stinging in my eyes

You aren’t sure if you should cheer or cry or both. That is the genius of Evans- the meaning and emotion she packs into spare space-word poetry combined with the ability to set it to music that is comfortable and addictive is the mark of a true talent and a rising star.

The title track, “Remember When”, continues the classic country theme with strong guitar backing and a light-touch percussion that scaffolds rather than competes with her angelic voice. The lyrics take you through stages of a lost love in the aching glow of memory - the joys of first meeting, the moonlight kisses, the twinge of wanting to go back to that time. All reinforced with the refrain that you can’t get out your head. I can see Evans at a concert with thousands of fans waving glow sticks and singing:

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Remember When, everything started
You held my hand, checked my heart in
under the moonlight, kissed me goodnight,
shadows in your headlights, nothin’s ever felt so right

laura evans

The next song, “What’s Left of Me”is my star of the EP. An affectionate, poetic ballad that forms haunting charcoal images in your mind of a vulnerable woman struggling with her vision of herself and a love that could have been but for timing. Evans begins the song with just piano, setting the tone, pulling your heartstrings; then rest of the band tiptoes in, forming a sheer, almost invisible curtain of sound that she glides over as she stirs you emotions, makes you think of your past, your might-have-beens. This is not a commercial radio song looking for spins; it is a accomplishment of writing and performance that will stand for years. It is such delicious pain that it is hard to stop listening.

Evans changes course and ups the tempo with “In Her Shoes”, moving back to a solid country theme, but with a twist. There is a Chevy pickup with a cute redhead next to the driver, but this is not a party song about cruisin’ the main in Bakersfield or Nashville. Evans is watching the scene from afar, strumming a western guitar, remembering when she was the girl in the truck with the same guy years ago and how she has grown and matured and he hasn’t. It is a song about heartbreak, yes, but the heartbreak was in the distant past and has become a lesson she learned, but he hasn’t. “In Her Shoes” is a story, but it is also a cautionary tale for men who won’t grow up and women who are attracted to them.

She moves back into ballad territory with More of Me, recorded live with just her on the piano. This is for fans, people who love her voice and her poetry. There are no hooks here to get it on the radio, no complex rhythms or overdubs or even guitars; just Evans, wide-open, vulnerable, powerful. Despite its stripped down simplicity, more than any other song, More of Me establishes her as an artist of immense talent. Where “Remember When” will rouse the crowd to wave and sing, More of Me, will hush them and make them cry. The ability to do both is the mark of a extraordinary artist.

Take a breath as the final notes of “More of Me” fade and then turn to the next song, “Stand By, the essence of country soul. Evans is once again a separate observer, watching the girl standing by, waiting for her chance, hoping for love. And once again, you can image the swaying crowd singing the refrain,

She’ll just standby, wait in line/
And hope that someday, you’ll be more than friends/
wondering why/She’s on standby

The EP sunsets with a lullaby, The Other Side, a soulful ballad that showcases Evan’s voice in a lower register. She is not sexy, but sensual and lovingly intimate. As she wishes you “good night, good night, sweet dreams and sleep tight I will see you on the other side” you want her to hold your hand as you slip away. When the song ends, you will find yourself quiet, thoughtful, trying to understand what has just happened to you.

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Remembering When is an artistic triumph, a tour d’force for a debut EP, and with it Laura Evans has staked her claim to stardom.

Patrick O’Heffernan
Host, Music Friday Liveeffernan