Evership is the stuff of dreams, the sort of dream where you wake up and think you should write it down because it would make a cracking movie. Central character is Shane Atkinson, one-time Nashville music producer, engineer and prolific composer who gave up the music business to support his family with a career in IT. Despite his success, the music gestated inside his head until he had to quit and return to his first love to fulfil his vision. Sold his house to build a studio and then in a dramatic plot twist lost the vocalist who Shane felt could best deliver the expressive music he had written. The project seemed doomed, but around the corner came Beau West a singer whose life was at similar crossroads who fitted the bill perfectly. How it all ends is still to be written.
Reportedly Shane Atkinson has at least four albums worth of music stored up from those years producing computer apps. This, obviously is the second instalment, and it, like the eponymous debut album from 2016 (see review) is an absolute delight. The opening track The Serious Room, recorded live at RoSFest with a touring band is perhaps less typical of the output, compared to the settled line up of musicians (and choir) who grace the studio tracks, but none the worse for that. West's vocals are epic throughout and James Atkinson contributes some lovely guitar work. While many listeners will compare Evership to 70s and 80s bands like Styx and Kansas particularly given West's vocal style, what comes through in every track is that Atkinson's compositions are honest and from his love of the music. There is no suggestion of fitting a genre to please an audience or perceived expectations and that makes Evership so refreshing. Atkinson is even quoted as saying that he didn't realise that what he was writing had a label! The next three tracks are absolute belters, beginning with the urgent drumming of Monomyth which opens out into a wash of synth led rock, anthemic vocals and choral work. Real Or Imagined is another terrific excursion, while Wanderer is a perfect ballad. As beautiful a melody as you will come across entwined with soaring keyboard work and a haunting ending leaving the audience wishing for more. Just these four tracks would be enough to make anyone sit up and take notice, but they are merely the appetiser. The album closes with a 28 minute, six section epic, Isle Of The Broken Tree. West shows his range of tone, throttling back in the early sections to an accompaniment of flute, acoustic guitar and piano, until 8 minutes in, the song's protagonist reaches an existential crisis, a breakdown fuelled by demonic bass riffs and soaring keyboard fills underlining the divisions at work, as the traveller is confronted with evidence of his earthly deeds before being guided to resolution through his alter ego, pastoral sections mixing with expansive contemplation and ultimately resignation.
Evership have produced another thoroughly entertaining outing. Epic in scope and showing all the virtuosity at their disposal without being self-conscious or descending into noodling for the sake of it. I couldn't believe that it contains over an hour of music, and held my interest for every second. Perhaps Evership are not so well known, but they deserve to be, and this second outing only cements their growing reputation. Bring on the next!
****+ Andrew Cottrell
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