INTERVIEW BY HANNAH ROBERTS
Kelly Evans is the life force, a mommy-sister, the hippie who touts aural energy and raw cadence. She´s deep, a communicator. Chris Walker is no-nonsense — on music, on life, on drink orders — no surprise that he´s the businessman of the group. He´s also the black guy; that explains a lot. And Chase Blowers, well, Chase is a workhorse. I know that. He went to CCM. He´s a professional, a whore. I´m right, right?
Defying all stereotypes, the members of the Kelly Evans Trio call their music Gypsy Soul, an apt label that could also describe the common thread that has drawn these three distinctive personalities together. It´s logical.. in their technique and presentation. Chris and Chase lay down a slew of rhythmic and percussive undercurrents (from bongos to bass lines to bottles) and Kelly bobs and floats, an apparition, delivering the cosmos with chords that run tag between Zap Mama and Stevie Nicks. The effect is captivatingly other. While the rhythm section recalls waves gently slapping a shore, the moody, syncopated vocals are night breeze on skin.
This is music as transportation. Atypically, no one member lends a prescribed ephemeral quality to the group. They´re all doing it. Kelly swears that´s because they command authenticity from one another. Personally, I think it also has a lot to do with Kelly´s steadfast understanding of emotional geography. She is fully aware of her status, yet simultaneously capable of extending beyond herself. Her earthy, conversational style is the core of the group´s consciousness and the reason they´re hard to categorize. Their sound, like their audience, is vastly different from gig to season to mood to climate, and all of it is subject to change.
Chris, unlike most hesitant musicians, quickly diagnoses the Cincinnati scene. He´s been doing this for 19 years — way too long to be overly polite about it.
It´s just so reactionary, he says. It´s fractured, it´s torn. Blame racism, yes, but it´s also an identity crisis, with everyone dressing the same and playing a lot of the same music. They´re seeking identity.
Chase, pensive and smoking, nods.
Chameleonic, he says.
Yes. Yeah. Really, says Chris.
The group reasons that that same identity deficit is at least partially responsible for the spreading chasm between good and bad Hip Hop. Chris shakes his head wearily. Wasted energy.
The mission, then? To never lose sight of one´s self. Kelly, Chris and Chase, while adopting varying ideologies, agree that their secret to successful music-making is to nurture common goals and to never assume you´re too good for something.
Music is work, Chris says, There aren´t too many gigs I would refuse to play.
Well, except private parties, says Chase.
And Republican conventions, says Kelly.
And they´re off, on to war, greed, Iraq and the murderer of all things good and positive, George W. Bush.
It´s lazy! Kelly cries (of the concept of war). It´s lazy and beneath us as human beings to react this way.
After a fairly heated dissertation, she stops, smiles, hugs herself.
So what was the question? Oh, Do I think that musicians should be political?´ Um, yes. We feel responsible, not just to each other, but to everyone in our community. If you´re not using your platform (as a musician) to shake things up, if you´re not putting positivity back in, then you´re not doing your job.
Their repertory possesses what is often missing in more part-time musicianship: the thoughtful ability to mix correct amounts of playfulness, indignation and talent. Relying on an innate ability to please the senses (Like Miles, he didn´t have to force you to feel, but you did, says Kelly), the trio forges on toward a fall EP release that is currently in the works.
KELLY EVANS TRIO (kellyevansmusic.com) plays Stanley's Pub on Sept. 15.