Dave Evans is a rare and special talent in the world of bluegrass, a songwriter capable of expressing vivid and honest emotion and a musician (banjo is his main axe) who doesn't mind letting the rough side drag a little bit. The funky, rough-hewn qualities of his performances only add to the emotional wallop of his songs.
These two reissues show that he's not afraid to mix some hard-country into his 'grass (check out the title cut of "Just Look at Me Now"). His fine banjo playing is much in evidence on that same record's great banjo-fiddle piece "Buffalo Chips," with its quirky melodic passages and modal figures. "High Waters" boasts one of Evan's strongest originals, the ominous "Stone Coal West Virginia," in a fine, hard-edged version. Instrumental highlights include a brisk take on Flatt & Scruggs' "Dear Old Dixie," on which Evans' banjo navigates a series of tricky ragtime syncopations with the perfect blend of grace and grit. Even the bluegrass warhorse "Y'all Come" sounds great with Evans' leathery vocals and crisp picking leading the pack.
It's a hard call between these two. One hesitation, though - while these are reissues, there is no mention of their original release date in the credits ("Just Look..." is 1997 and "High Waters" is 1998, both on Neon), nor are there any notes to contextualize the contents. Considering how fine this music is, that's a bit of shame.