If Johnny Cash had delved more into folk-rock during the '70s, his work might have sounded like Rusty Evans' latest. A veteran folk and rock performer, the Brooklyn native - born Marcus Uzilevsky - has mastered the late Man in Black's deep vibrato and penchant for spiritual imagery. The result is a twangier, edgier version of Cash's sound that walks the fine line between tribute and impersonation.
Instrumentally, Evans is a crack electric guitarist offering atmospheric sway-bar fills ("Shackles of My Mind"), clean rockabilly leads ("Get You Out of My Dreams") and some occasional Bo Diddley beats ("Haul Away My Ashes"). As a songwriter, he expands upon Cash's folk-noir sense with tales of lost souls driven to wander ("Lost Highway Man," "Shadow of Night"), scripture allusions ("Burning Man") and romantic mysticism ("A Dream Within a Dream").
Periodically, Evans allows his Cash impersonation to slip while he delivers a Red Sovine ghost story ("Tavern on the Lost Highway") or an Elvis-like '60s pop rocker ("Doctor Love"). However, when he taps into bitter humor ("Black Jack Shirley") and rebellious hook song declaration ("If This is Country Music"), he transcends mere mimicry and captures the true essence of Cash's craft.