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Daily Texan: Jeffery Evans brings his '68 Comeback through town

'68 COMEBACK At: Hole in the Wall, 2538 Guadalupe Date: Friday Time: 10 p.m. live music

SUSAN SHEPARD Daily Texan Staff - 11/01/1996

Thanks to the bizarre cross-pollination of ideas between Austin and Memphis, our River City has the pleasure of welcoming the Bluff City's resident roots raconteur Monsieur Jeffery Evans to town this week. On the heels of Billboard magazine's accolades, Evans has brought his group '68 Comeback to town for a couple of shows and some hard work recording with Austin harp blower Walter Daniels. '68 Comeback has developed a close association with Texas in the past few years -- the most recent addition to the group's lineup is one George Reyes, a former Austinite who made it to the Mecca of music, Memphis, Tenn., Evans' residence and the base of band operations. He joins drummer Jeff Bouck and guitarist Nick Diablo, young men of determination who made it to Tennessee. Although his group has changed members as frequently as underwear, Evans' work ethic has been consistent, and their Thanksgiving trip to Austin is a working holiday. "A week of recording is what we came down for," said Evans. "We had one show booked and then came up with another one, since we were coming down, but [the trip] wasn't really as much to play as to record. Walter's living here and we've worked with Walter off and on." '68 Comeback opted to use a comfortable, natural environment for recording their extremely raw, soulful music, explained Evans. "We set up in a garage, we brought our own equipment, so it's not anything produced, just garage recordings." Whatever is recorded in Austin will likely see the light of day as a release on Sympathy for the Record Industry, '68 Comeback's longtime sweetheart in the independent label world. Its eclectic roster is a fitting home, as Evans has somehow managed to escape being stylistically shackled. This freedom is impressive when his participation in the seminal Gibson Brothers is taken into account -- a group that even Billboard, in a current article about the "damaged blues" bands of the United States, hails as the progenitor of the current glut of lofi rock reductionists. The Gibson Brothers simply managed to reintroduce visceral, soulful music as a desirable form in the '80s, and Evans continues in this style today. "When everybody was going to punk rock shows in the late '70s, I was listening to Hank Williams records and blues records, rockabilly. I would see bands like the Cramps, and what I would get out of it was seeing where they were coming from. I would see bands like Black Flag, and I wouldn't say, 'I wanna go and make a band like that,' what I would take from that would be to appreciate the energy of seeing Rollins on the floor. The style of music was not a style I could relate to other than it had energy and that was why it was worth seeing to me." While attracted by the energy of the live performance, Evans wanted to put music to it that was evocative of emotion rather than the current trends. The blues and rockabilly music he's absorbed into his blood now come out at every '68 Comeback show, where the immediacy of a good show just serves to emphasize the music itself. "It's the energy of the live performance that I relate to -- hopefully I can do that if I'm 'on,' if I do a good job. "As far as recording, that always has to be second. Even though I think there's a point for songs with a message, songs that come from your heart, songs that relate to some experience that you're going through. It's there, like in hardcore, there's politics, but you can't hear the politics unless you read the words. Rock'n'roll is supposed to be simple, it's supposed to be easy to get. It's just music for everybody," said Evans. Guitarist Reyes points out how their music can be for everybody when he decribes an encounter with an average listener. "I was outside the doctor's office, and this lady came up to tell me it was my turn. I was listening to stuff we had done on the car stereo, and she said, 'What are you listening to? That's the blues, man.' I said, 'That's my band,' and she said, 'Is that a brother?'" Therein lies the brilliance of Evans' mission -- he's managed to blur back together all sorts of fictitious lines separating black and white/urban and rural musics and styles. The result is a form of music that conveys more of an atmosphere than a message, which is a necessary characteristic in this world for powerful music. Also, it makes them naturals for movie music, especially the type that accompanies the films of J.M. McCarthy, a Memphis filmmaker whose work is also powerfully evocative of Memphis' soul. Evans' work on current recording for the film The Sore Losers along with the Austin '68 Comeback sessions look to make 1997 another prolific year for the South's most unusual and interesting roots band.

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