Bob Evans – Suburban Songbook

The end of the 2005/2006 financial year is always a hectic time. Everything seems to happen at once and it is very easy to miss the little pleasures in life.  That’s my excuse for not noticing a little package called Suburban Songbook from a man named Evans until the first day of the new financial year.

Bob Evans is the alter ego of former Jebediah front man Kevin Mitchell and the sound of Evans could not be more removed from the energetic rock of his old band. Having tested the waters and honed his craft as a solo singer/songwriter on his first album, Suburban Kid, Evans has recorded what I can only declare as my current tip for best Australian release of 2006.

The appealing nature of Suburban Songbook is the honest and open manner in which Evans delivers his songs.  ‘Friend’ is a song about falling for a close friend and the conflict between those growing emotions and the fear of losing the friendship.  Evans sings “I believe in love, I believe in love, I believe in love but do you?” as he battles with the trepidation of ruining what he already has with someone who understands him.  Similarly, the frailties of Evans are also apparent on ‘Sadness and Whiskey’, a longing song about a lost love delivered with an alt-country feel:

/Now I’m sitting on the front step of our house
Just awaiting you to turn your car around
If I didn’t stink of sadness and whiskey
Could you marry me?
‘Cause you are where I’ll always be
Come home and you will see/

As a songwriter, Evans has come a very long way.  He has shown an ability to capture raw, everyday emotions and translate them into poignant lyrics that touch the heart and leave lingering memories.  His words encourage contemplation and reflection, and makes us question who we are really are and who we really need in our lives.  On ‘Nowhere Without You’, Evans confides: “Where would I go? What would I do?  I would be nowhere without youI just can’t make it on my own”. On the piano dominated ‘Flame’, a melancholy song about the moment one realises things will not turn out as planned, “I’m sorry,” laments Evans, “you’re not to blame, you’ve just spent to long holding onto a flame”.  Finally, on ‘The Greatest Unknown’:

/Hold me now promise you won’t let me go
Through the memories and beyond the great unknown
Hold me now promise you won’t let me go
‘Cause I just can’t stand the thought of losing you/

Through this quality song writing, Evans comes across as a broken and flawed man, a far stretch from the rock star image Mitchell commanded in his Jebediah days.  This makes Suburban Songbook an album about being human, and having faults, doubts and inhibitions.

However, within every damaged human being lies the courage to overcome life’s obstacles. On ‘Don’t Walk Alone’, an upbeat song with prominent keys, jangly guitars and uplifting and comforting horns, Evans comes across as an imperfect man just trying to do his best. All he can promise is “our love will grow”, and one can’t help but give in to his sincerity and him that chance. Similarly, on the sing-a-long ‘Comin’ Around’, a tune that reminded me of Cody Chestnut’s ‘Look Good In Leather’, there is an positive feeling and combined with horns and a nice change up in the middle of the song.

Book-ending these songs are the acoustic driven highlights ‘Don’t You think It’s Time’ and the album’s first single ‘Darlin’ Won’t You Come’. The repeated questioning by Evans in these songs is endearing.  ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’ is a gorgeous tune:

/Don’t you think it’s time?
Time to start anew
Time for changing views
Time for making up your mind
Don’t you think it’s time?
Time for moving on
Time growing strong
Time to leave the past behind/

And one can related to the protagonist on ‘Darlin’ Won’t You Come?’ who asks:

/Darlin’ won’t you come run away with me?
I’ve rubbed off my palms and I’ve worn out my knees
And I don’t feel this place holds a love for me
So darlin’ won’t you come run away with me?/

Taking the album to another level is the instrumentation Evans is prepared to utilis. Beyond the simplicity of voice supported by acoustic guitar, bass and percussion that many other solo artists stick to, Evans is willing to venture further. Mandolin, flute, autoharp and moog make an appearance at one stage or another, and the wonderful effect they have on the songs is no more apparent than on the winning secret track, ‘Me and My Friend’.

Here’s a tip: Take that tax return of yours and invest it in Suburban Songbook.  It will be the best investment you make all financial year.