On Steve Forbert’s first studio album since 1996, producer Jim Dickinson adds his own mix of laid-back Memphis soul and experimentation to the singer’s streetwise folk music.
“Something’s Got A Hold On Me” kicks things off, echoing Forbert’s earlier rollicking style with his trademark cracked voice and trilling harmonica. After this familiar beginning, however, Dickinson’s peculiar brand of Memphis magic gently takes hold. Muted horns and a small chorus of background vocalists give many of the songs an intimate, almost R&B-tinged atmosphere. “She’s Living In A Dream World” sneaks in a ghostly vocal effect that answers Forbert’s vocals, mirroring the illusions of the song’s protagonist. The title track starts as a weary tale of on-the-road desolation, then unexpectedly transforms into the determination to start anew, thanks to evocative tempo changes and a fuzz guitar hook in the refrain.
It’s too bad, then, that the last two songs fall flat. “Listen To The Mockingbird” is a lament that doesn’t go anywhere musically or lyrically, and “Trusting Old Soul” tries hard to be a wry, upbeat finale but comes off as a weak rewrite of an earlier Forbert tune, “What Kind Of Guy”.
Still, Evergreen Boy shows Steve Forbert trying on a slightly different skin and sounding quite comfortable in it. While Forbert’s previous albums displayed a bold cockiness, this is a more introspective collection that slowly reveals its charms.