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Wilkerson continues strong displays of guitar, vocals on ‘Evergreen’

Wilkerson continues strong displays of guitar, vocals on ‘Evergreen’

Wilkerson continues strong displays of guitar, vocals on ‘Evergreen’
March 04
12:00 2020

While Zac Wilkerson’s website bio says he’s a “soul rocker from the country,” you’d be hardpressed to find any country in his latest album, “Evergreen.” In his third LP, Wilkerson strays away from the country-soul-rock mix that was present in his first two albums and focuses more on blending blues and rock.

The most evident growth since his 2014 debut self-titled album comes in the production. “Evergreen” shows more gusto from the booth than “Zac Wilkerson” and “Dustbowl Soul,” despite only being recorded in four days. Moving on from Walt Wickens, who produced the debut album, and bringing on Grammy award-winning producer Odor seemed to be a good fit for Wilkerson.

The harder rock sound throughout the highs in the album and the stronger guitar presence are interestingly juxtaposed with the uplifting message of the album: Life gets better. The lyrics are empowering and do a good job of reminding the listener that no obstacle in life can’t be overcome.

I’m personally not a fan of sketches or “non-songs,” such as the opening and closing tracks “Incantation I” and “Incantation II,” respectively. I believe they’re a cheap way of filling up space on a record, but it gives Wilkerson an opportunity to show off his vocals. His range is present in both songs and the intro fades well into the first actual song, “Give Your Heart to Love,” the single released on Valentine’s Day (fitting). This song initially caught me off guard, as the guitar track carries the heavy portion of the rhythm and is present on most of the upbeats, which I wasn’t expecting from Wilkerson.

While Wilkerson has included the organ on tracks in the past, it comes front and center in “Evergreen” from the very first song. Two tracks later, the organ plays a smooth melody in the back of “White Whale,” a song that opens with what might be my favorite line on the album: “What gives you the right to quit when it gets tough? To walk away from love? To say it ain’t enough?” This is the most powerful song on the album to me. All 2:59 of the song makes me want to go out and chase my dreams.

Wilkerson is known for his extended ballads (“Love Rescued Me” and “Let Me Love You” come to mind immediately) and he doesn’t shy away from them on this album. However, “Stay” might be the weakest of the three that I’ve listed. Everything about the song is great except for two things: The lyrics are a little repetitive and the cadence sounds eerily familiar to a previous track, “Be My Juliet,” despite boasting a much slower tempo. It’s still one of the better songs on the album.

When I initially saw “Take it Easy” on the tracklist, I thought Wilkerson would be covering the classic Eagles song. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed with the song not being the cover, but the song itself fell flat for me and represents a lull in the album that is reflected by the song before it, “Highway Lullaby.” That’s not to say “Take it Easy” doesn’t have a good amount of drive in it, but the song just didn’t call out to me.

“I Cannot Love You” is probably my favorite track on the album, though it sounds similar to “Love Me Like You’re Losing Me” from “Dustbowl Soul.” This song shows Wilkerson at his best: A steady, simple drum beat backed up by a slowly progressing guitar-organ melody with powerful vocals that just bleed the pain he must be feeling.

Wrapping the album up is “Incantation II,” another uplifting display of Wilkerson’s vocals. The last words on the album could either be about Wilkerson’s range or about his willpower, but either way, closing out the album belting the words, “I am powerful,” was a brilliant way to end it.

Overall, the album has high moments, but some of the riffs and lyrics sound a tad too repetitive. It went a completely different direction than where I thought the album was going, but I’m not mad about it at all. Since the release of the single, I’ve had high hopes, and between Wilkerson’s guitar and vocal skills and the overall production value of the album, I was not disappointed.

Final rating: 3.85/5

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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