On their Facebook page, Silent Sam & The Evans describe their style as “driving Americana.” It’s an accurate description, given that their sound is an upbeat blend of a number of different rootsy musical elements. But it’s also a description that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. There are a number of subtle yet surprising moments on “City Life” that elevate the EP above the realm of standard retro fare into an area that is uniquely Silent Sam & The Evans.
The band gets toes tapping right out of the gate with the jaunty “Go Daddy,” a song anchored by the stand-up bass of “Silent” Sam Higgins and propelled by the honky-tonk piano courtesy of Tyler Quist. A swing number with bit of country flavor, this one will no doubt be filling beer-soaked dance floors all over the greater Portland area. Hard to imagine anyone sitting still while watching the band play this one live.
The laid-back shuffle of the title track evokes the spirit of Leon Redbone, and features some nice bluesy guitar work from Evan Chase. Haunting backup vocals provide a nice contrast to the back-porch, finger-snapping groove of “Inside My Mind.” Higgins serves up some tasty slide guitar on “Seasons” that dovetails nicely with an understated vocal from Chase.
The EP’s most unusual track is “Sometimes.” It starts off with drummer Evan Casas laying down a jazzy groove, with Chase’s mandolin providing the melody that creates a sort of jazz-bluegrass feel. Then, just before the halfway point, an abrupt time change signals a change in mood. Casas’ drums turn funereal, and Higgins’ slide guitar makes a return appearance, creating just a hint of the psychedelic. Whether intentional or accidental, Silent Sam & The Evans may have created their own unique genre on this track. Rootsy psychedelia? Trippy Americana? Whatever one chooses to call it, it’s cool!
The old-timey feel of much of the “City Life” EP may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re a rock ‘n’ roll fan. But as a calling card for Silent Sam & The Evans, and as a teaser for what would no doubt be a fun live experience, it works. And the very subtle but still noticeable spirit of experimentation at work on tracks like “Sometimes” makes Silent Sam & The Evans a band you’ll want to keep an ear on.
Catch Silent Sam & The Evans live at Andy’s Old Port Pub in Portland on Oct. 5. Sample their music and find more information at silentsamandtheevans.com.
Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at: