Evie Ladin Band: Evie Ladin Band

Innovative acoustic music pays homage to the past, but also looks to the future.

Evie Ladin Band

Evie Ladin Band

Label: Self-released
US release date: 2012-04-24
UK release date: Import

Oakland's Evie Ladin plays a kind of neo-bluegrass that uses traditional instrumentation -- banjo, fiddle, upright bass, acoustic guitar -- while eschewing many of the old-timey, just-country-folks tropes of conventional bluegrass. Ladin's voice is muscular and smooth, and capable of expressing a wide array of emotions, and she is capably supported by a set of competent musicians that includes Dina MacCabee on violin, Keith Terry on bass and Erik Pearson on guitar and banjo. This album marks the recording debut of this particular group of musicians, but they sound as smooth and cohesive as if they've been playing together for years.

Album opener "Got You on My Mind" smolders with gnarly intensity and is an album highlight. It's also the perfect introduction to Ladin's voice: sultry, wistful and defiant all at once. The band joins in one member at a time, and nobody hogs the spotlight.

The good news is, it's a great song; the bad news is that much of the rest of the album has trouble measuring up. "Down to the Door / Lost Girl" is a straight-up bluegrass jam that wouldn't sound out of place on a Rounder Records compilation. It's a very good tune, well arranged and played, but it lacks something of the offbeat verve of the opener. Follow-up song "He's Not Alone" slows the tempo, loses the energy and replaces it with trite lyrics.

Not until "Below", the fifth song on the album, does the band begin to reclaim some of their wonky-tonk territory. "Below" benfits from a stuttering, irregular rhythm and opaque lyrics which manage to suggest much while actually saying very little (a good trick if you can manage it). MacCabee's fiddle playing is particularly evocative on this track, and the band as a whole coheres wonderfully.

And so it goes. The band veers between the fairly straightforward country/folk of "Sleepy Eyed Joe" and The Carter Family's "Shadow of the Pines" and other, more innovative takes on the genre like "Dime Store Glasses", "Coffeeshop" and "Sugarbabe". The latter song, especially, is remarkable for its use of a jittery, percussive underbelly and lyrics that sound straight out of a 17th-century dirge.

This isn't to say that the more "conventional" takes on traditional music are poorly played. They're not, and some, like the fiddle-centric instrumental "Build Me a House / Cypress Shuffle" are very lively indeed. (Once again, MacCabee proves her worth as Ladin's secret wepon.) It seems likely that, in a concert environment, such tunes would provide an interesting variety to the program. On record, though, they're the tracks that the listener just wants to get through.

This is a reltively minor quibble, and the case could certainly made that traditional music needs to keep one eye on the past even as it dives into the future. In any case, fans of acoustic and/or traditional music who are looking for something new will find much to like on this record. Ladin possesses a good voice, a keen songwriting sense and a stable of strong musicians to back her up.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.