11 Nov 2020


In the liner notes to Evangeline, Gary Lucas says, “I just want to give you an orgasm with the guitar.” A bold mission, but one that Lucas almost manages to carry out over the album’s 15 tracks.

'Lucas was the guitarist for Captain Beefheart before an ongoing career that has encompassed both solo albums and a full group project, Gods & Monsters. On Evangeline, Lucas hints at punk, flirts with folk, and bulldozes through bluegrass, country, blues, and more.

It’s possible to over-intellectualize this kind of stuff, and if you peruse the liner notes, you’ll find credits to Wagner (“Overture to ‘Tannhauser'”) and a pair of Asian composers, Bal Kwong (“The Wall”) and Chow Hsuan (“The Songstress On The Edge Of Heaven”). There’s also “low” culture here, including a feverish National Steel version of Blind Blake’s “Police Dog Blues” (recorded at New York’s Knitting Factory club) and the theme from Cool Hand Luke. Lucas does attempt some vocals, most notably on “Apismatisin”, a crisp meditation on religion, and the title track, which stylistically hints at the Beefheart lurking within Lucas still. “Sail Up” is the most delightful number, sounding like an old, eerily joyful campfire song.

Lucas plays every dexterous note here, and when he exploits the far reaches of the acoustic slide, as on the borderline psychedelic “Ah Feel Like Syd”, it should make even accomplished players cower in fear and awe. Even more impressive is the breakneck-paced “The Animal Flesh Comes Creeping Back”–which also has a live reprise later in the album, tagged a “(Slight Return)”, showing off the way Lucas’ performances effortlessly extrapolate from a theme. Even on the standard “Wedding March”, he can’t resist toying with the familiar tune, wringing it out into a surprising finale.' -Kevin Oliver

'Evangeline is guitarist Gary Lucas' first attempt at recording traditional music. A few years before he hit the Tzadik label with his new/old Jewish music fusions, Lucas had been everywhere else. From Captain Beefheart's legendary Magic Band to his own woolly and wonderful unit Gods and Monsters, Lucas has played it all. Evangeline is a solo acoustic guitar record comprised of a mix of traditional songs of various kinds (a theme from Wagner's Tannhauser, a blues by Blind Blake, an old Chinese pop tune, "Here Comes the Bride"), those that should be (Sun Ra's "Interstellar Low Ways," the title theme from Lalo Schifrin's score for the movie Cool Hand Luke), and originals written and sung in that style (such as the title cut, "Judgement at Midnight Suite," and his variation on the traditional "Wedding March"). Lucas' guitar playing is far from the quirk and roar it evokes on other people's records, or even his own Gods and Monsters blasting infamy. Here, armed with only six and twelve strings and his heavy-bottomed voice, Lucas offers a side of himself seldom heard. His finger-picking styles on "The Wall," a Shanghainese ballad that was a hit in the '50s over there, are dizzying, not on their quickness -- save that for the immediately following "Apismatisin'" -- but in their modal, open, dexterous manner of digging deep into chords for their nuances and secrets. On the latter track, it's all fire and brimstone, punching the six-string and leveling his lyric with his dazzling, Clarence White-style flat picking. Another beauty is the Lucas original "A Wandering Minstrel Eye," in C-modal. The creation of the melody is achieved by the fragmentation of augmented and modalized chords that create enough of a platform for a wide open single-string style to play over the drones and, eventually, even those drones get played as runs. The disc closes with Schifrin's "Cool Hand Luke," a melody so recognizable and pilfered it's entered virtually every area of our culture in some way. Lucas plays it close to home, using a reverb and delay box to simultaneously sustain and loop his guitar playing so he can get to both harmonic parts of the theme without a harmonic shift or augmented bridge (Schifrin created the tune as a two-melody work for orchestra). He plays it as if it were the oldest song in the world, with such tenderness and ferocity of heart it feels like he wrote it, or it was written for him. It's the only way to close a stunningly beautiful album. With 15 tracks and 15 jewels, what else is there?' -AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

I listen to this more than any other Gary Lucas album

'Gary Lucas: madman, genius or both? Clearly, option c. Of course, the trouble with the discography of a madman is how scattered it is, and when they are geniuses, there is so much value throughout the mess. I probably listen to this more than any other Gary Lucas album. It is mostly acoustic, and it showcases his precise and elegant picking on the folksier side of things. There is plenty of blues, and assorted weirdness, but if you just want a spectacular display of what Gary can do without the extended electronic experimentations, this is the album to get. The best analogy would be to an impressionist painter, who gets sick of critics and does a spectacularly realistic work just to show he can. And it's still great. You even get some of Gary's eastern influence with another classic version of "Songstress." Some tracks harken back to the British folk of musicians like Bert Jansch. Of course, Gary pulls out some slide, too. The electric work is mild on the effects, again leaving this as probably the best representation of what Gary can do when he just concentrates on stellar musicianship. Great stuff.' -Somebody of no consequence

1. The Animal Flesh Comes Creeping Back 2:19
2. Evangeline 3:05
3. Wedding March [Music By – Wagner] 2:02
4. The Wall [Music By – San Min] 2:31
5. Apismatisin' 3:50
6. Overture To "Tannhäuser" [Music By – Wagner] 3:31
7. Sail Up 2:10
8. Ah Feel Like Ah Syd 2:09
9. The Songstress On The Edge Of Heaven [Music By – He Lu Ding] 2:36
10. A Wandering Minstrel Eye 4:40
11. Police Dog Blues [Music By, Words By – 'Blind' Arthur Blake] 3:35
12. The Animal Flesh (Sligh Return) 2:46
13. "Judgment At Midnight" Suite 5:52
14. Interstellar Low Ways [Music By – Sun Ra] 4:33
15. Cool Hand Luke [Music By – Lalo Schifrin] 3:00

Acoustic Guitar [Solo Acoustic Guitars], Arranged By, Producer – Gary Lucas
Music By – Gary Lucas (tracks: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13)
Photography By [Back Cover] – Rick Hendrick
Photography By [Front Cover] – André Grossmann
Recorded By – Fred Reid, Gary Lucas, James McLean, Joe Saba, Robert Jacobson, Stewart Winter, Tim Kalliches
Words By – Gary Lucas (tracks: 2 ,5 ,7)

Incl. inlay