Bill Evans | Things Are Simple Review
by Griff Stevens
Bill Evans is an internationally recognized five-string banjo life force. As a performer, teacher, writer, and composer, he brings a profound understanding, strong virtuosity, and infectious enthusiasm to the banjo world. Evans has thousands of music fans and banjo students from all over the world in a music career that spans over thirty-five years. Things Are Simple is the new bluegrass banjo release from 2022 Steve Martin Banjo Prize recipient Bill Evans. Recorded over three years, Evans gathered some of his favorite musicians to record Things Are Simple, including John Reischman (mandolin), Jim Nunally (guitar), Chad Manning (fiddle), and Sharon Gilchrist (bass). The program contains vocal selections, and on the instrumental side, there are six original Evans compositions, a John Reischman jam standard (“Nesser”), and an old-time favorite (“Chinquapin Hunting”).
The title track, “Things Are Simple,” opens the project with a vocal duet between Evans and his wife, Babi. The fingerpicked guitar and a string quartet accompaniment arranged by Alisa Rose support the fluid singing. The gentle melody and beautiful lyrics start the album with a feel-good feeling that continues throughout the project.
The project closes with an old-time favorite, “Chinquapin Hunting.” When the band performs a classic, it allows the listener the chance to really connect to the melody and focus on Evans’ thoughtful musicianship, as well as that of his stellar supporting cast. The solos are structured with musical maturity and sensibility, but the most impactful element of this music is the joy the musicians project while playing together. This further affirms that Evans is a seasoned pro and a valued member of the banjo and bluegrass communities.
Things Are Simple presents Evans as a composer, vocalist, and performer. His touch is gorgeous, and his tunes strike a beautiful balance between innovation and tradition. Evans describes that album as “Things Are Simple is a musical biography, literally a musical description of all that’s happened to me and my family in the last several years. This recording traces our journey from sorrow into joy, focusing on the love and bonds of family. I wanted to draw the listener’s attention to the melodies and the contemplative mood of these pieces, and we tried keep the playing as basic and as beautiful as possible. I’m so proud of the job that everyone did on this recording. I’m hoping that this is a recording that you enjoy and find meaning in for years to come.”
Label: Native & Fine Records
Release Date: January 27, 2023