By Ellie Rogers
Laura Evans is an up and coming artist who hails from the valleys of Wales, but you could be forgiven for thinking she’s a Nashville native, thanks to her powerful voice and pinchant for writing authentic-sounding autobiographical country blues tunes. Following on from the success of her 2020 EP Running Back To Youand fresh from supporting Robert Jon and The Wreck on the UK leg of their 2022 tour, the singer songwriter is set to release her first full length album State of Mind on Friday 1 July.
Recorded at Momentum Studios in Devon, UK, Evans partnered up with Josiah J Manning (the lead guitarist of the Kris Barras Band) for the making of State of Mind. While Evans owned songwriting and vocal duties, Manning produced, engineered and mixed the record, and as a talented multi-instrumentalist, contributed every instrument heard on every track. The partnership is a powerful one and sees Evans tapping into a heavier rock n’ roll sound, as well as expertly combining elements of country, blues-pop and soul on her genre-blending debut.
Released as the album’s lead single, the opening track ‘I’m Alright’ is a riff-led rocker that’s bursting with fuzzy guitars, empowering lyrics and an absolute earworm of a chorus. Cinematic lyrical snapshots place a broken-hearted Evans cruising down the street in a brand new car with a pair of sunglasses and her ‘Hollywood smile’ to mask the pain. In cinema, the familiar scene is code for freedom, and it’s a sentiment that she captures and transposes into an attitude-stuffed blues rock anthem with style and ease.
In a similar vein, ‘Solo’ is an ode to flying free and unnumbered by a significant other. Evans’ vocals are powerful yet not without delicacy, and they soar above a swampy, foot-stomping rhythm provided by the multitasking manning. Thematically, ‘Fire With Fire’ follows suit, although Laura announces her intent to “Put a little spin-off on that breakup song,” in its opening line. The star of the track is its eminently chantable chorus, which delivers a dose of poppy perfection reminiscent of Stevie Nicks in her heyday.
One of the album’s stand-out tracks comes in the form of ‘Fool’, which Evans and Manning recorded live in just one take. Vocal nuances on this one evoke Etta James’ heartbreaking classic ‘I’d rather Go Blind’. Evans isn’t just singing a song here, she’s baring her soul, and it should never be underestimated just how difficult it is to conjure such emotion, let alone capture it perfectly on a recording. It’s one of only a handful of ballads on the album, and its minimal backdrop of just an electric guitar allows Evans’ extraordinary vocals to shine.
The album’s title track ‘State Of Mind’ offers a nostalgic throwback to a stateside love affair before it burned itself into an inevitable close. Much like the opening track, an abundance of classic Americana imagery betrays the Welsh songstress’s infatuation with US culture and music – an infatuation that has long since outlasted the fling at the center of this particular story.
Perhaps the trickiest thing for any songwriter is hitting on that elusive magic that makes a song feel deeply personal as well as universal. Written about the awkward experience of trying to break up with someone you no longer love, but trying to soften the blow to minimise the pain, Evans’ soulful country pop ballad, ‘Let You Down Easy’ elegantly does just that.
Elsewhere, ‘Drag Me Back In’, ‘Gone’ and ‘Good At Getting Over You’ reaffirmed that the thorny subject matter of tricky relationships and tricky breakups are the bread and butter of Evans’ songwriting, and the latter is particularly reminiscent of Rumors -era Fleetwood Mac in both sentiment and sound. Evans grew up listening to the band, as well artists like Bonnie Raitt and Dolly Parton, and even though their influences certainly shine through on the album, her songwriting is a heady cocktail of personal experience and nostalgia.
Her voice has a unique character that doesn’t hit you with its full power potential at all times. She leaves room for fragility and softer dynamic moments that draw the listener in to appreciate the subtleties of her vocal and storytelling capabilities.
A great example of this comes in the form of the heart-breaking piano ballad, ‘Mess Of Me’ – another song that was impressively cut in just one take. Evans co-wrote this track in Nashville with award-winning songwriter Jenn Bostic, and it’s the sort of song that could perfectly soundtrack a tear-jerking breakup scene in a Hollywood movie.
After all the heartbreak that Evans has packed into the record, ‘Free’ closes State of Mind on an uplifting note with big atmospheric chords, spirited lyrics and a trademark catchy chorus. Harking back to the album’s opener, imagery of the open road represents freedom and all the possibilities of what may lie ahead. Like the final scene of a movie that lets you know there’s bound to be a sequel, ‘Free’ closes this first sonic chapter in Evans’ story, and leaves the listener wondering what might be around the next corner for the Welsh singer songwriter.
Beyond being a talented vocalist, one of the main takeaways from this introduction to Laura Evans is that she has a brilliant knack for conjuring catchy melodies. Listen to State of Mind once, forget about it for a week and then listen to it again. You’ll be amazed at how many of Evans’ choruses have embedded themselves in your brain, even after just a brief exposure. This isn’t down to luck, it’s down to some seriously skillful songwriting, and Evans’ songs are the kind you could imagine big artists paying big money to record on their own albums. Hopefully, though, she’ll keep her talents for herself and continue to deliver many more albums as compelling as this debut.
The album is available for pre-order here
Laura Evans website
Listen To “I’m Alright”