Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lena Evans . . . Never Heard of Her? You Will

Lena Evans, cross legged, guitar strumming a complex chordal accompaniment to her lilting comment on life and love, sits on dusty sidewalk by busy corner traffic lights, across the street from Ralph's supermarket, a few feet away from an empty bus stop in front of Horton Plaza's street level entrance. It's appropriate.

I am restless this morning. This happens when music becomes my focus, when I am composing. Most of the songs I hear lately cause an internal shut off. I want to hear something fresh, something that will help me touch beyond what is seen, something to refresh my soul. My music is eclectic. I need . . . .to hear uniqueness for inspiration.

Admittedly, my ears are tired of assembly line electro-pop robotron singer wannabes in almost every contemporary genre. As I walk, Lena's plaintive vocalizations soothingly drift up from Horton Plaza's street level stairs.  A whiff of newness, individuality, a fragrant essence of creativity born in angst and yet hope, her voice is haunting.

Descending two flights of stairs,  I find Lena seated and singing. She looks up, pauses. We have talked briefly before, me preoccupied, not really hearing "her" yet sensing I was in the presence of a major talent in the making. At that time, I mentally filed our encounter under "need to followup". Today, I hear her, a very creative musical being. We have a real conversation. Eventually, reading me and knowing that I am in a different perceptive state, Lena relaxes and we ease into a short interview. Our exchange reminds me of conversations with Dr. Nancy Van Deusen several years ago.

During my only Phd. program semester at Claremont Graduate University--due to lack of finances and personal illness- Dr. Van Deusen encouraged me to consider music as dynamic "substance: What is that lingering fragrant essence of an individual musical voice that resounds in ones' thought, memory? Why do we listen over and over again?

I am still trying to answer these types of questions after encountering a musical talent like Lena Evans. She is songwriter/poet, singer, guitarist, pianist. Her musicality spans a diversity of styles. Her vocal timbre is a reminiscent blend of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.  During my teen years and into my twenties, I spent many hours listening to these prolific song writer singer-gutarists. Lena has their gift. She says she always wanted to cut a CD.

Thanks to the Synergy Arts Foundation Project, she now has one. And it is not for those who use music like a coat or pair of pants. She has occasional expletives, not many, not intrusive, but organically placed within the lyric structure. She has an uncanny ability to sing difficult melodic intervals...quite rare! And, her lyrics reveal  a gift for poetic imagery.

I have now lost count of how many times I've played Lena's CD, hearing a new vocal nuance or finding a hidden nugget of wisdom in the turn of a phrase. I asked Lena what her songs are about. She says, "Life, love for my husband, observations about people and the way they interact.

Lena's love songs, inspired by her husband and their relationship, candidly speaks to the joys and challenges of being in a positive "working" committment. Her title track "Life Is Good" is one such love ballad that opens with a bouncy folk song pulse and surprise lyrics--gotta hear them!

One of the verses states:
"I love walking by and laughing 'til I cry
'cause you know I love joking with you.
'Cause life is good with you.

"People" is refreshing. It opens with bouncy major chords in a syncopated beat then does a metric shft and suddenly goes dark. Its lyrics "gaze" at humans interacting and sometimes not. Its satirically tongue in cheek and yet thought provoking.

 It opens with:
"People always dropping knowledge on me
Evey where I go there's something there to learn  . . . . .

A few lines later:
It's sad when the sand is dirty
It's nice when the water is clean
It's sad 'cause the world is dirty
I know my hands aren't clean
Nooooooo No, NOOOOOoo
Oooooo Oh Oh Oh

Then, a harmonic swing back to a major chord frame becomes the original bouncing beat with satirical:
Doot, ta do doo, doot doot ta do doot do  

Her minor keyed in "Super Star" is filled with clever lines. The chorus:

So I'll sing you a song for a quarter
I'll give you my soul for free
I hope that I'm loud enough for you to here me
Somewhere out there looking for me.

Apocalyptic filmmakers, Lena has a song for you!
It's quirky and has a very different "feel" like a spiritiual person woke up on an ascension "Last Day on Earth" and realized that she ain't in Kansas anymore and her partying friends have a serious case of shoulda, coulda, woulda. "Last Day on Earth" seems as if it is waiting for a film project, waiting to be found by a director or producer who realizes what he or she has discovered and knows that Lena's song is a righteous hook for their film's main theme.

"End of the World"  opens with a catchy instrumental and then:
 Things are looking strange
People acting deranged . . . . .

Lastly, Lena closes her official debut CD with a a surprisingly gentle, contemplative piano solo, "Flowing" is a melodic feast with an arpeggio chord bass. It is self-declaration, a meditative homage that draws a sonic portrait of Lena Evans and her love for music.

She is on her way to being heard . . .
Delores Fisher

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