I just received the knockout punch news that Terry Evans has passed.
I’m going to try and put thoughts to paper in a distressed state and hope it conveys at least some of my feeling for Terry and his music.
Terry and I made 4 records together: Puttin’ It Down, Come To The River, Walk That Walk and Mississippi Magic. On those records, you’ll find an incredible cast of cohorts: Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, Willie Green Jr, Juke Logan …. and so many more.
Why does talent such as this come out to support Terry? It's not about money, that I can assure you. Oh, everyone got paid, that’s not what I mean. But these guys could get paid much more by doing sessions with big ticket, big buck artists. And they could do it every day of the week if they wanted.
No, they came out for Terry because he truly is the authentic, real deal embodiment of everything great about blues and soul music. (I just wrote “he truly is”…. “was” does not yet compute.)
Honestly I was late to the party when it comes to Terry’s music. I was certainly aware of what he and Bobby King did for a number of Ry Cooder’s masterful albums. But it was when I heard the Cooder-produced album by Terry called Blues For Thought that I remember just being floored by such a concentrated serving of his elegant brilliance. (Check out “Get Your Lies Straight” from that session ….. right now!)
So I was a big fan when I first learned that Terry was unsigned and available in early 1995. (This was during the time that AudioQuest was also a music label in addition to being an audio accessory company.) I remember my first conversation with Terry like it was yesterday. He was unassuming, humble, as real as it gets and without an ounce of “star” ego. We talked for several hours, about everything …. sports, politics, food …. life. It quickly became apparent that Terry had a collection of songs he had in mind and that he had a dream of calling on old musical friends like Ry and Keltner to help him achieve his vision.
By the time July of ’95 rolled around and it was time to go into OceanWay to record, Terry’s dream was coming to fruition …. Cooder and Keltner were back on board and we had Terry and Ry’s old music mate Jorge Calderon on bass. I was a basket case since we were following up the Cooder-produced Terry Evans masterpiece Blues For Thought. AND we were doing much of the album live-to-two track, meaning you mix-on-the-fly as the take is going down. There are no possibilities for overdubs. And you know what? Terry just fucking nailed take after take. Most vocalists would never even consider recording “live-to-two” since you are completely exposed. What you sing is what is going to tape for everyone to hear. Terry’s attitude was “Let’s do this! Let’s do this like they used to! Makes no difference to me!”
And he was right. Yes, we would stop and start takes because someone would hit a clam here or there. And Terry would have to sing it all over again. Keep in mind that Terry does not hold back when singing …. it’s full throttle all the way. He does not hold back until he knows the red light is on …. he’s the antithesis of that.
That record (Puttin’ It Down) came out to rave reviews. The version of Terry’s “Down In Mississippi” on that record has become a kind of classic R & B anthem. (I suggest you put it on right now.) This album helped Terry maintain a touring schedule that never really stopped, as far as I know, until this past Fall in the EU.
May I suggest a few tracks from the follow up albums to check out on whatever evening that you read this? These are just a few tunes that I feel are essential Terry Evans listens at this time when we are all grieving together over this remarkable human being that we’ve lost. (And those of you who were privileged to know him …. seriously, have you ever known such a combination of blazing talent, genuine humility and honest-to-god authentic friendliness as Terry?)
Please check these out asap (all records under Terry’s name):
- Blues for Thought: "Get Your Lies Straight", "That’s the Way Love Turned Out For Me"
- Puttin’ It Down: "Down In Mississippi", "Walkin’ In The Same Tracks"
- Come To The River: "Get Up, Get Ready", "The River"
- Walk That Walk: "Walk That Walk", "Dancin’ With Your Belly Up"
- Mississippi Magic: "Where The Southern Crosses the Dog"
And then there are the many great records that Terry did with Hans Theessink, in addition to so many others.
Please, let’s all celebrate Terry’s incredible life the way he would want us to. Put on your favorite music from this magnificent man and lift a glass to the soulful genius of Terry Evans!
Joe is currently a member of the Blue Note team producing The Definitive Vinyl Reissue Series. Learn more at musicmattersjazz.com.