From the desk of Gregg Miner:
Dave Evans, fingerstyle guitar cult hero to many, handed away peacefully in his sleep at 3 AM on April 4th. He was 80 years previous, and had lived an undeniably wealthy and colourful life, stuffed with mates and love.
Fairly than an obituary, it is a celebration. Principally, it’s my private story about how Dave’s music, then the person himself, got here into my life. I feel Dave would approve…
Like a lot of you, I’ve had numerous guitar heroes over time: Leo Kottke, Django Reinhardt, Allan Holdsworth, too many to depend…
However ever since choosing up a duplicate of his Unhappy Pig Dance LP, Dave Evans was my man.
I discovered that whole album (Kicking Mule Information kindly included a booklet with half the tunes in tab!) and it knowledgeable my very own model greater than the rest earlier than or since. My very own “dwelling tuning” would replicate Dave’s well-known low C tuning (CGDGAD; he utilized many others).
Again within the day, making an attempt to study and play a Kottke tune was exhausting. However, whereas intricate and difficult, Dave’s model simply appeared pure. His items had been enjoyable little finger-puzzles for the arms and a continuing deal with for the ear. He was so lyrical, so imaginative and authentic, so quirky! I feel that was after I additionally completely stopped taking part in consecutive notes on one string; like Dave, I might discover each doable Campanella fingering for all the things I wrote and performed from that point ahead. Fairly merely, nobody tickled my fancy like Dave, with that method and his harmonic and melodic surprises at each flip. Whereas usually lumped in with the late ‘60s English fingerstyle acoustic guitar scene, he stood firmly aside. Nobody wrote tunes like him (and beautiful poetic songs, too!). And Dave got here completely out of the blue; he didn’t even decide up a guitar till he was 23!
My “Dave Evans interval” began after I was 20 and went full blast for a couple of years. I might finally transfer on to different music and different devices, however I might nonetheless decide up a guitar and play a few of these tunes a decade or two later.
Reduce to 2007. My pal Frank Doucette – one other big Dave Evans fan – had been attending Stephen Bennett’s Harp Guitar Gatherings (the “HGG”) as I had – for 4 years at that time. Gamers and builders are each part of it, one of many latter being our particular pal and inimitable Brussels luthier Benoit Meulle-Stef. In July, my spouse Jaci and I took our first trip to Belgium and visited Ben at his dwelling/playroom/retailer/workshop (that’s from the highest down in his superb 3-story+various-mezzanines-building). Again dwelling within the States, fall was shortly approaching. We’d quickly be heading to Virginia for HGG5…
…when Ben instructed us that Dave Evans is likely to be coming with him to the Gathering. What? Why? How?! (is what) Frank and I blurted by way of electronic mail, after which Ben casually dropped the bombshell, “Oh, Dave is doing guitar repairs at my store…”! It took us some time to select our jaws up off the ground as we processed that, Ben offering his traditional underwhelming element (i.e.: none).
The Gathering was solely weeks away, however for some misguided motive I made a decision that I merely should “shock” Dave with a harp guitar association of his traditional “Unhappy Pig Dance” tune. I re-learned it (thank god for muscle reminiscence!) and moved issues round a bit so as to add sub-basses…and…
…it’s October twenty sixth, 2007 and Dave Evans is standing in entrance of me. Bespectacled and soft-spoken with a Welsh accent (hints of Bristol and notes of Belgium), his voice harking back to a heat fuzzy bee (the resonant baritone selection) buzzing in a single’s ears and enveloping your coronary heart. He knew my (Harpguitars.internet) popularity however possible had no concept of the most important fan I used to be. But it surely was Friday Open Mic Evening and he was about to seek out out!
Properly, I gave a protracted, emotional, nerdy introduction and made it via his tune on pure adrenaline. Frank stated he muttered one thing overly charitable like “That’s the best way it ought to have been performed”…and I received the primary of Dave’s patented hugs.
Gregg, Dave & Frank on the 5th Harp Guitar Gathering
Sure, he was sort and loving to all and completely loved the weekend. I’m positive others have recollections and tales of their very own (please add them within the Feedback area). Frank stated he was handled to a pile of tab and an unreleased dwell CD that Dave had introduced for him (Frank had despatched him a rabid fan electronic mail). I additionally bear in mind the inebriated Sunday night time wrap social gathering at SB’s dwelling and Frank goading me into making an attempt to recollect Dave’s tune “Stagefright.” As Dave appeared amused, I struggled via that, laughing when the bizarre center half got here up and shouting “Dave – what the hell had been you considering?!”
(That’s Mike Doolin and Nancy Conescu reverse entertaining Don Alder. The late Dennis Mitchell is at higher proper. Bob Hartman’s having fun with the cacophony within the again whereas his spouse Carol waits patiently for one thing she will dance to.)
On the finish of that occasion, we may solely hope we would see Dave once more. (We’d, learn on!)
Dave’s Recordings and Bits of Biography
It was solely after Frank and I began hanging out collectively in Los Angeles that he caught me up on all of the uncommon out-of-print Dave Evans albums. I received all the things I may (uncommon copies or burns) and fell in love yet again.
His first – 1971’s The Phrases In Between – was recorded with two mics straight to a reel-to-reel Revox on the Bristol dwelling studio of Ian A. Anderson (folks music producer, not the Jethro Tull chief). Dave would have been 30 and – I did the mathematics – had solely been taking part in guitar for eight years! But Dave “arrived” fully-fledged.
After his education (location unknown; Dave was born in Bangor, in northwest Wales), he famously spent 5 years as “Third Mate within the Service provider Navy, crawling over the Indian Ocean in a sluggish tub of a cargo ship.” There was evidently not a guitar in sight, or Dave would absolutely have tried taking part in it.
In response to his monitor notes on Unhappy Pig Dance, he stayed with a pal overlooking the Atlantic for every week “who taught me tips on how to play.” That was “Morocco John” (the pal, and the tune). He additionally ran the native folks membership whereas at Loughborough Artwork School starting in 1963. Right here, he would later share a flat with singer-guitarist Steve Tilston (it was Steve who would encourage to Dave to write down songs and years later ask him to play second guitar on his Ian Anderson-produced album – which led on to Dave’s first album). Dave would flip 23 in December of that 12 months, so presumably the mixture of pal John, then Steve and his folks membership expertise fast-tracked his extremely fleet, intricate skills on fingerstyle guitar.
Whereas he would now play guitar in earnest, it was at all times primarily in his off hours. His time between the Artwork School days with Steve and his later Bristol recordings with Steve appear to form up like this:
After school, he appears to have continued his wanderlust, sooner or later dwelling on a home boat. For 3 years or so (roughly 1968-1971) he lived in Honiton in Devon County, the place he was employed as a designer at Honiton Pottery (he would later return to pottery). In the meantime, all this time he was into wine-making (he would later famously return to beer-making in Brussels). Instantly after he completed his album for Ian Anderson in Bristol, he went again to Honiton, aspiring to proceed his previous job as if nothing uncommon had occurred. When he was promptly fired as an alternative, he headed straight again to Bristol. He quickly received a job with the Metropolis Freeway Division by day and a folk-singing gig at night time. Dave stated he may end his civic duties early and handle to get an additional few hours of guitar observe in. His neighborhood close to Metropolis Highway would supply many new eccentric characters to supply grist for his colourful songs. Thus, he would grow to be part of the burgeoning British folks scene with different well-known fingerstylists.
In his second 12 months in Bristol – 1972 – Dave purchased his personal reel-to-reel and recorded his second album himself. Once more launched on Anderson’s Village Factor unbiased label, this was Elephantasia. Neither Frank or I’ve a duplicate – it has by no means been reissued and is inconceivable to seek out. The explanation seems to be that Dave’s tape deck had 2 speeds – so he gleefully experimented with some multitrack items with double-speed guitar. Others had been stated to have been an Evans type of “Prog Rock” (fascinating!) and had been deemed too “dated” to re-release. Fortunately, the 30th Anniversary CD launch of The Phrases In Between included 5 of the ten songs from Elephantasia (together with one high-speed guitar experiment). That whole 15-song album will be heard on YouTube, and for those who desire to pay on your music, you possibly can obtain Phrases at Bandcamp.
Dave’s whereabouts for the subsequent eight or so years aren’t recognized. We presume he stayed in Bristol, however went usually in London to file for his subsequent a number of tasks.
Unhappy Pig Dance got here subsequent in 1974, produced by the good Stefan Grossman and launched on his Kicking Mule Information label. It was his solely entirely-instrumental album, and the one one to stay generally out there.
In 1975, Grossman put collectively Up to date Guitar Workshop, a form of a “cutting-edge” of fingerstyle guitar on the time. Dave contributed 5 model new tunes, which will be heard there and likewise on the later CD launch of Unhappy Pig Dance.
Dave’s closing solo album, Take a Chunk Out of Life, got here out in 1976 (once more on Kicking Mule) and located him again in poetic song-writing temper.
These strictly into instrumental-only fingerstyle guitar nonetheless owe it to themselves to placed on headphones and take heed to all of Dave’s information. As a result of right here’s a secret well-known to all his followers: Each single track has the identical great guitar preparations performed (dwell!) effortlessly beneath as he sings. It’s as if we’re listening to two musicians. One is Dave the singer, who emotes his lyrics with a powerful melody. The opposite is Dave the virtuoso guitarist, who concurrently performs a really completely different, fully-complimentary fingerstyle half. Absolutely half of those may actually stand on their very own as separate instrumentals. In fact, refined fingerstyle accompaniment wasn’t distinctive to Dave – most of the late ‘60s gamers had been discovering and fomenting this model. However Dave’s components at all times appeared to go that further mile. Even the best of Dave’s “accompaniments” include extra hooks, twists and melodies than 90% of fingerstyle guitar instrumentals composed (I exploit that phrase euphemistically) right this moment.
Celtic fingerstyle guitar followers (of which I’m an enormous one) received a closing deal with when the first-ever “Irish music” guitar compilation got here out in 1979. Irish Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes & Airs introduced Dave again for 4 traditional conventional tunes and one authentic. Dave’s preparations are stuffed with pull-offs, hammer-ons and cross-string harp results, notably efficient as three of his preparations are of O’Carolan harp tunes. In response to Ian Anderson, Dave was among the many very “first to experiment with O’Carolan’s Irish tunes on guitar, influencing gamers as numerous as France’s Pierre Bensusan and America’s Duck Baker within the course of.” After recording his items in London and earlier than the album was launched, Dave had moved – completely, it turned out – to Belgium.
In 1991, a number of of Dave’s Unhappy Pig Dance tracks appeared on the Shanachie CD compilation The Artwork of Fingerstyle Guitar. However by this time, Dave had way back disappeared from the music enterprise. Or had he?
The rumors had been that sooner or later Dave had suffered an undisclosed hand harm and stopped taking part in – although continued to construct guitars and do repairs whereas returning to pottery, cooking and beer-making. However the CDR burn and notes that Frank obtained from Dave at HGG5 instructed a special story. The recording was an unreleased dwell album titled Dave Evans Dwell on the Travers from a 1992 efficiency! And it was great. It was as guitar-virtuosic and stuffed with lyrical poetry as something in his ‘70s profession. In it, we are able to hear Dave giving a quiet “hum” to himself on the shut of a few of his songs. It’s as if he’s within the room with us – his approach of displaying his love for the tune, for the viewers who gratefully listened, for us.
(Dave kindly gave Frank permission to share this priceless gem with others. We’re engaged on these particulars.)
So, it appears Dave hadn’t fairly retired from dwell performing. YouTuber “Bristol Ron” noticed Dave again in Bristol and filmed him performing “Unhappy Pig Dance” (with some refined rhythmic variations) on February 15th, 1993. (UPDATE: Bristol Ron has an entire sequence from this live performance right here.)
As exceptional as his music however much more shocking was the truth that Dave constructed the guitars he performed and recorded with within the early Seventies. Nobody did that again then. You begged, borrowed and stole, then went to the guitar retailer and acquired a guitar. Interval. (Or, like most of us, you first received used hand-me-downs from older brothers and neighborhood youngsters headed off to school.)
We see what’s alleged to be his first home-made guitar in his Feb 28 1975 efficiency of “Stagefright” (above) on the British tv present Outdated Gray Whistle Check, Dave performed this hanging blue-green instrument with a novel headstock. Evans fan Stefano Bertoncello stated on his 2009 Twogoodears weblog that this was in-built 1968. An nameless commenter on that put up wrote in 2021: “I knew Dave after I was a scholar at Loughborough College within the late 60s. He was constructing guitars and composing the songs that later turned his first two albums.” Dave later utterly modified this guitar, stripping the end and making a microtonal fretboard. (UPDATE: As my pal Abaji writes within the Feedback, Dave finally put the neck again to regular frets, then gave the formerly-green fantastic-sounding instrument to Abaji. Followers might be joyful to know that Dave’s different devices might be going to different mates he specified to Benoit.)
Much more hanging was his “Rectangular bouts” guitar with which he recorded 1976’s Take a Chunk Out of Life. He performs it additionally on this YouTube clip of the opening track from the album.
Being each harp guitar and Pierre Bensusan followers, Frank and I knew that Dave had continued to construct devices – as Pierre had famously commissioned an outrageous harp guitar from Dave with seventeen sub-basses!
Above, Pierre with the brand new harp guitar. Proper, the harp guitar right this moment.
I’m positive many people would kill to listen to Pierre on Dave’s harp guitar. Alas, the instrument has gone unused. Frank and I used to attempt to cajole Pierre into taking part in or recording one thing with it, nevertheless it wasn’t to be (he instructed Frank that the 6-string is how he makes his dwelling and if he performed harp guitar he’d need to play it on a regular basis to create one thing particular with it. He additionally needed all of the chromatic bass notes, however admitted it was an excessive amount of to look down at that sea of strings!).
The Harp Guitar Gathering should have impressed Dave the luthier. When he got here again two years later, he had a model new harp guitar with him. It was considerably much like Pierre’s, however with a wise seven subs (Ben’s most well-liked quantity, which absolutely influenced him. Dave additionally adopted Ben’s most well-liked bolt-on neck design, agreeing it simplified issues vastly; this harp guitar’s two necks will be simply eliminated). It had a considerably domed high and again, and gave us all a touch of what Pierre’s should sound like (very completely different and really great).
We had been thrilled to see Dave as a part of the Luthier panel, and boy, do I now want we had videotaped that.
L-R: Benoit Meulle-Stef, Mike Doolin, Dave, Duane Noble, Dennis Mitchell (d. 2021), Jim Worland and Wealthy Mermer.
It was even cooler seeing Dave among the many harp guitar gamers for the live performance’s “Water is Huge” grand finale:
As soon as once more, I merely had too little time with Dave over the weekend. I envy different’s experiences, particularly highlights like this one:
Dave in a duet with Stacy Hobbs and Stace’s two Larsons!
Visiting Historic Williamsburg. Dave, Benoit, Joe and Linda Morgan, me, Jaci (Rohr, my spouse).
Much more acceptable right here; three of the six are now not with us: Dave, Hiro Takai (1963−2021) and SB’s 3-legged canine Ben.
Thankfully, we had been blessed with Dave twice extra! (Hiro would make it again two extra occasions additionally – for HGG10 & HGG15.)
Dave got here again two years later after we had switched the placement to Milford, CT (Stephen Bennett’s new dwelling). He introduced again the identical harp guitar, which obtained the SB “Luthier Problem” remedy (above), together with all the opposite builders’ newest devices.
Above, watching Stephen play it. Look how Dave is simply beaming with delight!
Dave’s final Gathering was a terrific one – HGG10 in Dallas!
In a then-record-setting finale, Hiro is entrance and middle, whereas Dave is off at proper.
One other private reminiscence, if I’ll. Again at HGG7, I performed an all-too-rare new authentic tune (from my Canine CD), after which Dave sidled up, locked eyes and buzzed “You need to write extra.” And so I did. One thing quirky and adjacent-string chromatic-y introduced itself at some point on my fretboard and I ran with it. I known as it “Dave’s Glad Rag” (in homage to his “Unhappy Pig Dance”) and performed it for Friday’s Open Mic.
Dave was tickled, I received my hug, and all was proper on this planet. (Thanks Chuck Thompson for capturing this!)
To everybody’s delight, Dave introduced alongside a model new harp guitar! Much like his earlier, however an enthralling parlor measurement, with an extended harp body for its seven subs. It was one other jewel and sounded great.
Dave sharing his instrument with us in his lodge room.
On the finish of the Gathering, singer/harp-guitarist Nancy Conescu bought Dave’s instrument (for which I’ve continued to kick myself!). Frank remembers her saying that she and Mike (Doolin, her husband) needed to gather devices by builders they admired and she or he actually preferred Dave’s given its measurement and vary for accompanying her voice. Sadly, this was to be the final instrument constructed by Dave.
I might spend the subsequent a number of years main up 2021 arranging, writing and recording tunes for my epic Norwegian Wooden CD utilizing my assortment of early-1900s Knutsen harp-instruments. I received “Dave’s Glad Rag” down (on a contemporary Dyer harp guitar copy, truly), then determined to do a brand new association of his “Unhappy Pig Dance” for a large 8-bass Knutsen harp guitar.
It occurred to be his seventy fifth birthday, so I despatched him the completed grasp, a tad extra assured than that fateful day again in 2007! His electronic mail reply, copied beneath, is the very best present I may have hoped for:
Hindsight. We by no means appear to study simply how brief and treasured life is. I so remorse that I didn’t make the try to go to Dave for every week right here and there with a view to interview him, focus on his guitar ethos, to not point out getting his life story. However I count on it wouldn’t have confirmed fruitful (although the corporate, meals and beer would have been divine!); Dave was simply too self-deprecating and humble, and should not have been comfy sharing all that. Certainly, the folklore has endured: “Vagabond” Dave was one thing of an enigma then and now – and can possible eternally stay a massively under-researched expertise. Maybe a few of his many mates and guitar colleagues will add to his story.
And, so – from Unhappy Pig Dance…to Glad Dave’s Rag…
Fascinating how these tunes completely summed this up for me and gave me this Weblog title. Whereas I’m enormously unhappy, I’m eternally glad that Dave Evans…was. And that I used to be in a position to share in his extraordinary world.
Till subsequent time…
Photographs and pictures come from numerous Web file websites, YouTube, Pierre Bensusan and numerous Gathering individuals: Chuck Thompson CHGP, Hiro Takai, Frank Doucette, Mike Doolin, Linda Schaffner, & Linda Morgan.
Because of Frank and Ben for recollections and analysis.
Appendix: Quotes on Dave’s Music
Ian A. Anderson, 1971:
- “Dave is one in all that uncommon breed of people that have a pure capacity to supply very good outcomes at no matter they flip their arms to…”
Ian Anderson, 2001:
- “The press…fell on The Phrases In Between with appreciable pleasure…”
- “…he’d produced an immediate traditional.”
- “…it nonetheless sounds recent and authentic, a real misplaced gem of British ‘modern folks…”
- “Head and shoulders above many different now-cult artefacts from the time…”
Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop:
- “…his sound is totally distinctive, as is his feeling for concord.”
- “…others remind the listener of the impressionistic composers, notably the maverick, Eric Satie.”
- “…Dave by no means seems like he’s forcing stylistic marriages. Like several true artist, he has digested his influences and are available out singing his personal track.”
Steve Gunn, 2021:
- “Each facet of his sound was of his personal design.”
- “Evans has rightfully earned cult standing amongst anybody with an ear for the fingerpicking model of guitar.”
- “Lou Reed (within the viewers on the session the place Dave’s “Stagefright” footage was shot) was stated to have been utterly mesmerized by Evans’ phenomenal – but seemingly easy – contact.”
- “…the rarity of his expertise lies in his present for melody, which is relayed each instrumentally, and by way of his candy Welsh lilt.”
- “The Phrases in Between feels clear and easy. Dave’s consoling voice comes via in his phrases, and his beautiful guitar taking part in guides us alongside on this beautiful journey.”
Tom Cole, October 2, 2021:
- “It’s not simply his seemingly easy taking part in. There’s a present for melody and an astounding delicate magnificence that goes past his fleet fingerwork.”
- “He’s additionally an achieved lyricist and singer…”
- “What units Evans aside…is his buoyant contact and his relaxed, unforced, conversational method to phrases and music. His finest lyrics inform poignant tales about characters he knew…that Evans captures via vivid scenes, individuals and feelings with a straightforward poetry.”
All About Jazz:
- “Dave Evans, nevertheless, was one who coupled his love for open tunings along with his knack for writing good songs and got here up with a terrific album…”
- “(Unhappy Pig Dance) is sort of an album to relaxation his legacy upon, a close to good recording stuffed with robust melodies and nimble taking part in.”
- “Evans’ items are often lyrical and kooky…”
- “Unhappy Pig Dance is a marvel of an album, the type that’s so good it transcends its style and simply turns into good music.”
Stefano Bertoncello (Twogoodears weblog), 2009:
- “…he wrote, organized and performed among the many most nice, lovely, difficult, poetic – to play and to take heed to – guitar tunes, ever.”
- “…at each guitar gathering or Open Mic wherever you play one in all these… properly, of us… individuals get trapped in awe… it’s a mixture of previous melodies, bizarre, unseen method and tunings and a contact of thriller…”
I couldn’t have stated it higher myself. – G
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