Evan Bartels: Promised Land
With a handful of full band shows and at least that many solo acoustic performances from Evan Bartels under my belt in the last two years since his debut LP, I’ve been yearning for new songs to digest. Well, the wait is finally over. On Friday, April 26, 2019, Evan releases Promised Land, the follow up EP to his full-length album debut, The Devil, God & Me. Knowing that his debut album was in my top five favorites to be released in 2017, my expectations were somewhat high. I can confidently report, that I am not disappointed. In fact, I’m very proud of Evan’s work on this project. You can call it a labor of love about love because that is exactly what this concept album is: love songs. Not in the sappy ballad sense that you may be thinking, however. These are stripped down to the core of the human existence and learn to love thyself, love songs.
This may only be a five-song EP, but it has a lot to say. Bartels describes Promised Land as, “a collection of five songs centering on the art of breaking down one’s belief systems, habits, personality, and rebuilding into a new person.” The concept for this album was derived over the last two years of life experiences. During his travels across the country in support of his debut album, all while welcoming a son into the world, Evan used those experiences to tell a personal and emotional story. Bartels took a good hard look at the person he wanted to be and the promises he wanted to make to his wife, son and himself. From that, Promised Land was born.
All of the instruments - the guitars, piano, and organ on this album were all played by Evan. All lyrics for this album were penned by Evan, he recorded all of the vocals, and co-produced the album with engineer, Jeremy Wurst, of Coyote Face Recording. Bartels may be new to most people’s music radars, but he certainly didn’t pick up a guitar and song-writing pen yesterday. He began writing and playing guitar in his early teens. He is seemingly perfecting his craft more than a decade later with his powerful and poignant writing. His imagery and storytelling are really showcased in Promised Land. I would even liken his style to be similar to that of Jason Isbell or John Fullbright. Evan’s sound is definitely all his own. Even in his young age, he has the chops of a well-worn old soul that has already seen a lifetime of experience. That unmistakable rasp in his voice even makes you believe it.
In the first offering of Promised Land, Bartels describes in the song, “Drugs,” the battle he had with loving and accepting himself and how he found a “high” in the freedom of that acceptance. You would be hard pressed to know anyone who could not find some resonance with that struggle at some point in their own life. The narrative for “Wild” is freeing and relieving. One of making a connection with the untamed earth and opening the mind to living a life without fear. Looking back on the past without regret and looking to the future with optimism is something we all encounter. However, sometimes we get hung up on the events of the past or the unknown of the future. “In My Time” is that reminder to live in the moment and to enjoy the transitions of our life. In a love song to his wife, Evan relishes the little moments in their relationship with “She Being Brand New.” He tells of the moments that built the foundation in which the roots of their love are grounded. Bartels captives with the love story that many aspire to write. Evan concludes the EP with a promise from father to son. “A Thousand Times” is a beautiful vow to raise his son to follow his dreams, to be strong, and to be fearless. It’s a song about not being afraid to take inevitable missteps, but to learn and grow from them.
The themes of personal growth and transition in these five tracks are moving and relatable. The musical delivery enhances the focus on the narrative. The lyrics are complimented and not overshadowed. Evan is a gifted lyricist and musician and has delivered a superb collection of songs about his perspective on life and how he has learned to navigate through it. I encourage you to add this EP to your playlist which is available on CD and all digital platforms on April 26, 2019. Upon the release of Promised Land, Evan has a full 2019 tour schedule and plans to release a full-length LP with his band, The Stoney Lonesomes.
To keep up with Bartels and his band, visit;
Order Promised Land here;
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Special Thanks for the cover photo and album art to Lindsey Yoneda;
Special thanks to Courtland Dunstan for the photos in the article;