I get thousands of submissions and I find so much music in my studies, and I veer off into other genres besides strictly Country. When I hear something REAL I always STOP and dwell upon what exactly the messages are. I had to do that with Mr. Evan Bartels and his new EP called Promised Land. Just today he released the video for his newest single off the album called “Drugs”, which was a pretty self explanatory subject, however being a recovered addict myself I wanted to delve into my interpenetration of the song.

It begins very dark and very poignant as the scene is painted of a wild night of partying with cocaine in his blood and mass smoking. It made me reminisce about all those nights I spent high myself. This song made me recall my detox and my love of Christ too, it made me recall my fears and victories as well. This song gave me goosebumps, as he growled out his vocals, with the poetic precision of Bob Dylan or any other master of their craft.

All of the songs on this album are quite lengthy topping a whopping 3 minutes plus, so despite the overall lack of more tracks on this album the time makes up for the loss. The song quality is THERE, the depth and the ambiance is just THERE….it’s true music folks. The song “Wild” was a song that equally spoke to me about having a free spirit and being untamed. I love this life of music journalism and seeing unknown places and meet new people.

“In My Time” has some GREAT lines in it. This song has a somber tone and haunting message “If The Devil Ain’t Killed Me Yet, The Good Lord Loves Me Still”. The demeanor of message on this song spoke volumes to my very soul, self destructive and at the same time positive.  “We’d Get High And Look At Highways And Talk Like Older Men”. I honestly feel like he wrote this album about ME and as a fan I cannot say many other albums struck me like this one. His cries out to God with mournful reverence and sorrow about his bad decisions and hopes for the future, as he guides us through his transition from trouble to victory as a better man.

The last song called  “A Thousand Times” also spoke to me because I watch the world from windows I built in my mind as well. Everybody falls and stumbles but it’s how you pick yourself up that counts, and I believe this song is about stumbling blocks in life. It has more inventive lines within it, and I had to listen to it many times before I deducted my final message. Being strong and not letting someone down is not always the easiest thing to do, in any situation and this album certainly didn’t let me down.


Promised Land is a collection of five songs centering on the art of breaking down one’s belief systems, habits, personality, and rebuilding into a new person.

Track Listing:
1. Drugs
2. Wild
3. In My Time
4. She Being Brand New
5. A Thousand Times

“These songs are love songs. They’re about loving myself enough to question everything I am and be willing to break myself down to my core so that I can find who I can be if I’m at my best. They’re love songs to my wife and son, and in them there’s a promise of giving everything of myself to them. I wanted to capture a transition in my life in a way that I believe other people can look at themselves and find common ground through vulnerability.”

The word “drugs” conjures up different images for different people. When I wrote this song I was feeling spiritually and emotionally isolated. For years it seemed like I was trying to find something, anything, that I could use as a buffer from having to look at myself too closely. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s felt that way.


I’ve seen people hide behind substances, ideologies and political beliefs and lose a part of themselves. For me, I hid behind fear. I’ve been afraid of people not liking me because of what I did or didn’t do, what I did or didn’t say. I’ve been afraid that I didn’t deserve grace, that I didn’t deserve forgiveness. My father once said to me, in a time that I really needed to hear it, “You have to be able to forgive yourself and love yourself.” That’s true for all of us, no matter our story.


There’s nothing that can fulfill our souls if we don’t love ourselves for who we are. When I wrote the lyric, “(nothing)… that can make me feel as high as loving you, that can make me feel as free as loving you…”, I was writing to myself.

It was dark and it was cold, somewhere in Wyoming. I was on a highway that ran along the edge of the mountain range and had to stop to sleep. The drive from Laramie to Boulder isn’t especially long but after being up for over 30 hours it seemed like an eternity.


I got out of the drivers seat and went outside the van to stretch and head back to my bunk. The weight of the darkness and the vast silence that stretches out into the wilderness is incredible. I saw that it was about 4:00 AM which meant I had 2.5 hours to sleep before I needed to continue my drive. A cold wind rocked the van and I fell asleep on the side of the road.


I got up just before the sun and started heading South. Driving in quiet, only the hum of the tires on asphalt. Have you ever seen the way the sun rises in Wyoming? All of a sudden it peers over the horizon and the rays of light splash color on the plains in waves that crash against the mountains. I knew this was it. In this moment I was witnessing something in life that people since time immemorial had experienced. I’ve seen sunrises but this was a baptism of light and warmth. I felt so connected to the earth and to being alive and I felt wild. Almost an indescribable feeling that I’ve been chasing ever since, the desire to connect to my primal self. I refuse to make my decisions off of safety or comfort. I want to live unapologetically and with no hesitation.


“I don’t want to talk it over. I don’t want to think this through. I want to be WILD.” Live free, without fear.

On November 1st, 2017 my mom called me and told me her father died.

I just sat in the car in the quiet and Cryssa held my hand. A few days later when I went back home for the funeral I took some time by myself to drive around town. Everything seemed so much smaller. When I was a kid the railroad tracks were a rain forest and a battle field surrounded by endless plains and rivers where the wildest adventures took place. Now it was only a few trees and a cut corn field.


I don’t know what changes more, life or just our perspective of it. Losing two grandfather’s, that I dearly loved, in a matter of months. Living in a van, playing small clubs in towns where no one knew me. My pregnant wife at home. My perspective was rapidly changing.


I was caught between wishing for the simple joy of the past and the overwhelming desire to get to a future that had to be better than where I was. I decided to do something I hadn’t been. I decided to be present in my life and see everything around me as clearly as possible. Hold my experiences with me in the moment. When I do get to wherever I will go, I want to appreciate it when I’m there. I want to look at my past with no regrets. There will always be transitions in life and each time there is pain there is potential for joy.


Someday, I will make the final journey that we all must. While I am here I will be relentlessly in the moment and know that I am in my time. Live free, without fear.


“She Being Brand New” is a love story about the little moments. To me those are the most important parts of any love story, all the small acts that add up to a larger picture.


Somewhere in the beginning of my relationship with my wife she came across a book of poetry from E.E. Cummings. I remember us laying on the floor and her reading to me all of these different verses and poems. I could hear love in her voice and that has stuck with me ever since.


She has a way about her where when I need it the most, she says she loves me through the tone of her voice. The first time I heard it was through those poems. A small moment that is woven into the larger love story of her and I.



It’s the fear of the unknown that sinks in the pit of your stomach. I could feel it like 100lbs of lead. How do I make this work? Is it selfish of me to go after what I want? If I fail, I’m not just failing myself… I’m laying that failure on the people I love most and asking them to carry that burden with me.


I carried that fear with me and when my spirit is lacking faith, I sometimes still feel it. My legacy will be the work I leave behind and more than that, it will be my son. What kind of man do I want him to be? Not the kind who runs from fear. Not the kind that compromises his heart or denies his dreams. So that is not who I will be. He will be the son of a father who works. The son of a father who does not take the easy road. The son of a father that refuses failure.


“Every man that’s walking will fall from time to time.” It’s not the falls we take, it’s having the will to continue forward that counts. He will be strong and brave. He’ll know that I would die a thousand times before I ever let him down. He will live free without fear.

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