By ROB DUGUAY
Blues music has different tones to it. There’s that clean, polished tone making the solos sound like they came from the heavens. Then there’s that dirty, distorted tone that makes you want to drink a six pack, smoke a cig and chill out on your couch or porch. Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Left Lane Cruiser lean toward the latter with Brenn Beck on drums and Joe Evans IV on slide guitar and vocals. They’re going to be getting loud at Askew on 150 Chestnut Street in Providence on June 10. Local acts Helen & The Trash Pandas and Adapter Adapter will be adding to the amplification.
Evans and I had a talk ahead of the show about finding his own style, his particular kind of guitar, being in a working band and new music that’ll be released soon.
Rob Duguay: How would you describe your musical upbringing? Did you get into blues music at an early age or did you not get into it until later in your life?
Joe Evans IV: My dad was a big blues fan and his best friend, who I consider my uncle, was as well. They were big blues guys and I got to grow up listening to their two favorite artists, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. That was kind of the background music of my childhood, even before I became in love with it. That was the foundation I got from my dad and as an adult I found my own style of blues that I like, which is more specifically from the North Mississippi Hill Country like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. I listen to a lot of other stuff out there as well like Mdou Moctar out of West Africa and a lot of the old guys my dad didn’t necessarily listen to all the time like Hound Dog Taylor and John Lee Hooker.
RD: You play a slide and a dobro guitar, which are pretty unique instruments. What is it about those guitars that makes you prefer to play them rather than a typical six-string?
JE: It’s classic for that blues steel guitar sound. When we first started, my wife had bought me two electric resonators and they’re kind of a hybrid in the sense that they’re a dobro style but in an electric guitar body. That was the main instrument that I played in the beginning of the band and on many records but unfortunately they didn’t last the test of time. I still got one of them, the other one I accidentally drove over with a van coming out of a house party. I still have all my steels and I play those live because we’re pretty heavy and loud. I do play six-string electric and acoustic guitars but I write using the steel bodies and the only surviving electric resonator I have.
RD: When it comes to you and Brenn being a duo, how do you fill in the low end to get a fuller sound? Do you tune your guitar a certain way or does Brenn use his bass drum a lot more than usual?
JE: First of all, he’s a heavy hitting drummer and he keeps his stuff real loose. He’s not really technical, he likes it nasty and rattling which adds to the sound. I’d say the biggest feature of it is that I’m in all open tuning, it’s a lower tuning so it’s fuller and the vast majority of our stuff has me fingerpicking in a style that for the bass line my thumb is pulsing constantly. We started as a three piece but because of that style the bass doesn’t stand out because it’s doing the exact same thing my thumb is, which can be frustrating for bass players. In all honesty, it wasn’t too necessary because we’re both really tight by ourselves and it kind of became obvious that we were doing our thing as a duo so that’s how it all happened.
RD: In the band’s 18 year history, you’ve released 11 albums, which is pretty impressive for that amount of time. What would you say inspires this prolific output?
JE: To be on the road constantly, which is what we used to do before COVID-19, you gotta have a new record out at least every year or every two years. Especially if you want to get overseas, which we’ve done quite a bit over the last decade. We’ve played close to 500 shows in Europe now and you don’t just get to keep going back on the same record. Not to mention, we’re a working band so new music is always in the works and we write primarily on the road. I write riffs every single day of my life, things have obviously slowed down since the pandemic because the whole machine got put on pause but we’re getting back at it and we’re five or six songs into the next record.
RD: Can we expect that record to come out later this year or next year? When are you thinking?
JE: Just not to b.s. or anything, I figure next year just because we’re both stuck in full-time jobs but it’ll be out as soon as possible. I’d say next year, for sure.
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