Rant ‘N’ Roll: Ned Evett – All In

In the popular poker game Texas Hold ‘Em, the concept of going all in is when you put all your cards on the table and offer up your life—win or lose—to the fates. This is exactly what super-duper guitarist Ned Evett did with the Adrian Belew-produced Treehouse. He left his wife, he left his life, he watched Boise, Idaho, disappear in his rear-view window. He went on the road opening for Joe Satriani on a six-month tour. While in Milan, Italy, he met King Crimson guitarist and singer Adrian Belew.

“My marriage of 20 years was dissolving anyway,” he explains. “It’s funny. I’m actually from Nashville, Tennessee, originally, but I was living in Boise. So I came back home, basically. Treehouse is a lot about coming back home artistically and literally. Adrian and I hit it off so well he invited me to come to Nashville to start this project. It was basically all cards on the table. I’m all in with this record.”

Treehouse­ has Malcom Bruce on bass (son of Cream’s Jack Bruce). It falls directly into that “Americana” sub-genre. “I’m not looking for historical re-enactments,” says Evett. But still, some of the songs are about the losses he’s suffered on the way to building this Treehouse.

“Dead On A Saturday Night” may be some good solid kick-ass rock ’n’ roll (opener “Pure Evil” is pretty damn delicious, too) but the rustic folk charm of “Say Goodbye For The Both Of Us” is more in line with his story. His finger-picked intro is just beautiful. Warm. Expressive. Real deep down. Dude really has a way with an acoustic (not to mention a finger-picked electric as well). And bubbling just underneath the surface of the mix, there’s producer Adrian Belew banging on some pipes with a crowbar… or whatever the hell he’s doing to get that avant-garde Tom Waits-type weirdo sound in the background.

Speaking of weird, Evett plays a freaky kind of fretless glass ax that he constantly fingerpicks (he was trained in finger-style classical guitar as a kid). “Let me put it to you this way,” he explains. “It’s like playing slide guitar with your fingers. You don’t put a slide on your fingers. Your fingers become the slide, sliding over the fingerboard [as opposed to fretboard]. That’s really what it’s about. Putting a slide on the other side is another way I describe it. So instead of one slide moving like a bar across the strings, I have four slides, my fingers, all moving continuously.”

Winning the 2003 North American Rock Guitar competition resulted in him being in a PBS documentary about the event. Influenced by Mark Knopfler and Richard Thompson, his playing is exemplary, but it’s not what he’s choosing to focus on right now. He considers Treehouse, his sixth solo album, as a way to bring his eccentric John Haitt-style vocals and his compositional flair to the fore. “Nightmare And A Dream Come True,” for instance, is such a unique composition, sung in such a captivating style, infused with such superb musicianship, that it demands your attention. “Sayonara Serenade,” lyrically, captures his angst as he made difficult life transitions. And “Mars River Delta2128” just sounds so damn good, period.

To go from guitar geek to profound singer/songwriter is a quantum leap forward. To layer the profundity with players like Belew, Bruce, drummer Lynn Williams and organist Ed Roth makes it all the more appetizing. Throw in those goodtime rockers, put it out your own damn self, and you’re all in all right. Only time will tell. For more information, go to nedevett.com.