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Barry Levenson – The Visit – Featured CD Review

BarryLevensonTheVisitBarry Levenson

The Visit

Rip Cat Records

Released on July 17, 2015

Barry Levenson is a Los Angeles-based producer, arranger, studio musician, and live performer. After you hear him you get the impression he could play anything and he does. You could say his day job is making music as a hired hand for a multitude of projects from up and coming Popsters to movie soundtracks and TV bumpers. His hands may be required to do it all but his heart makes its home in the realm of Blues and Jazz. Originally from Pittsburgh, he’s been all over the geographical map as well. He studied music in Boston, toured the world with Canned Heat and currently works in Los Angeles. Barry is into old school tones and tunes and he concocts masterful musical excursions which perfectly suit his tasteful, sometimes delicate, and always melodic playing. On his new album, The Visit, from Rip Cat Records, Barry brings his vast library of licks, riffs, and tones over to your house for a late night listening party.

The album opens with the genre defining riff of “I Wonder Why.” Several of Barry’s influences have done this song from Earl Hooker to Freddie King but Levenson offers a masterful instrumental version much like Otis Rush did on Right Place, Wrong Time. In one complete, cogent track Barry sets forth his mission statement for The Visit. He’s bringing all his musical inspirations together for your listening pleasure. Barry’s music exists in the sweet spots of Blues and Jazz. The notes are blue but the feeling is positive and uplifting. It’s the musical equivalent of one door opening as another closes. “I Wonder Why” has all these elements, with Barry exquisitely combining styles of Otis, Freddie, T-Bone and others into a Barry Levenson brew that hits all the right notes.

On “Ice Cold Kiss” Barry takes a vocal turn adding smooth, jazzy vocals over a smoky layer of late night blues accented by cascading piano and horn lines courtesy of Mike Thompson and Phil Krawzak respectively. It’s a mid tempo tune that evokes images of a smoky, dimly lit late night jazz club, the air thick with cigarette smoke, stale beer, and pheromones. Many of songs we hear during The Visit exude late night melancholy with some exception like opener “I Wonder Why,” and “It’s Mighty Crazy” which is just plain fun. Being a creature of the studio and Los Angeles, Barry’s personal musical pursuits probably find their reality in late night jams. The late night jams are an improviser’s playground and Barry’s knowledge and encyclopedia of guitar licks make him the top choice in any pick-up game, but that circumstance surely informs the music he creates. This is big city late night music.

The title track, “The Visit,” expertly weaves together jazz and blues. The breakdown in the middle starts with a jazzy rhythmic chorded solo that builds into a West Side Chicago Blues head cutting contest big finish before slipping into a swinging coda. You have to go back and listen to this one a few times to hear everything you missed. “This Time I’m Gone For Good” and album closer “You’re Gonna Need Me” features Billy Price on vocals. Billy is a well-known and respected soul singer whose latest album, This Time for Real, was recorded with Chicago soul singer Otis Clay. Guitar aficionados may remember Billy from his stint with Roy Buchanan. Barry Levenson is a player on par with Roy Buchanan and it’s great to hear Billy working with a less histrionic, but equally evocative player. The two men form a sympathetic duo that makes each song a special moment during The Visit.

Even before you hear the music, you get a hint of what is to come. The cover of The Visit looks like you’ve opened the front door around 10 pm to find Barry and his trusty guitar. He’s brought his friends Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and T-Bone Walker with him. He even brought along his old pal from Pittsburgh Billy Price to sing a few. “Have you heard of Grant Green?” Barry asks, and then plays some licks to remind you. It’s like the old days when people would bring records to a party and would actually listen to them and discuss what they heard. One song would inspire the next in a Round Robin of pre-internet music sharing. To me that’s what The Visit is all about. Don’t wait for Barry to knock on your door, schedule a visit for yourself and some friends with this terrific musical love letter to a time before playlists, Pandora, and ear buds.

The Visit is available at iTunes, Amazon, Rip Cat Records, and other outlets.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases July 17, 2015

As of July 10, 2015, the day for new releases in the US has been changed to Friday to match the international new releases day. This rare instance of worldwide uniformity may help cut down pirating and will make music available at all outlets at the same time.

There have only been a few new releases from the world of Blues recently so here we present what has since the release day change on July 10. The list is eclectic and includes the third disc from the incredible Samantha Fish who is quickly rising through the ranks of blues musicians with her dynamic guitar playing, powerful voice, engaging songs, and authoritative stage presence. Lately she’s been incorporating cigar box and gas can guitars, adding a rustic rumble to many of her songs. Her slide playing is getting better all the time and she rips it up on the new disc Wild Heart.

Hammond B-3 wizard John Ginty is back with a strong new disc called No Filter. The title might allude to the fact there’s no filter when it comes to expressing himself musically. There is plenty of Blues on No Filter, but John takes listeners on trip around the musical solar system and stops at just about every planet. It’s another wonderful platter from this master keyboard player.

You may know Barry Levenson from his stint in Canned Heat, but Barry’s playing and writing extends far beyond the 15 minute boogie madness of the Heat. Barry is into old school tones and tunes and he concocts masterful musical excursions which perfectly suit his tasteful, sometimes delicate and always melodic playing. He plays things you wish you could play. Well I wish that, anyway. Make some time for The Visit and be prepared to pay attention while you sit back and listen to this sublime offering from a true master.

Speaking of master guitarists, Ronnie Earl returns with another celestial album. This time out, Ronnie’s already heavenly blues goes one step further into the universe with the addition of vocalist Michael Ledbetter from the Nick Moss Band on most of the album. The pair co-wrote the moving title track “Father’s Day,” a soul searching song of peace and forgiveness. The whole album carries a peaceful feeling and Mr. Earl’s playing is beguiling, spine tingling, and brilliant.

Beyond the big hitters is some interesting stuff like Blinddog Smokin’ and their funky High Steppin’John Lisi’s eccentric Shut The Front Door, and Erja Lyytinen’s powerful Live In London. That’s it for now. I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

 

Samantha Fish

Samantha Fish Wild Heart

Ronnie Earl

Ronnie Earl Father’s Day

John Ginty

John Ginty No Filter

Barry Levenson

Barry Levenson The Visit

Erja Lyytinen

Erja Lyytinen Live In London

Blinddog Smokin'

Blinddog Smokin’ High Steppin’

John Lisi

John Lisi Shut the Front Door

If you’d like to sample the music on these new releases, check out our Spotify playlist. If you don’t have a Spotify account, you can listen right here through our website.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases Round Up

It’s time for another new releases round up. New blues every week! It always happens. There is new blues out there for us every single week and we let you know the who and what so you can spend more time listening to the Blues.

This week we have the long awaited new release from Royal Southern Brotherhood. The band has seen the departure of Devon Allman and Mike Zito but they have added equally powerful elements with Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan. Guiding light Cyril Neville is still front and center and the engine room is still manned by Yonrico Scott on drums and Charlie Wooten on bass. At the bottom of this post we have an RSB video for you so you can get a taste of the new lineup.

Sonny Landreth has a new disc out called Bound By The Blues. If you’ve heard Sonny before or have seen him live, you know he’s not really bound by anything. His technical skills are unsurpassed but he plays with heart and makes every note count. He’s a damned fine songwriter too. Don’t let this one slip by you.

Lucky Peterson has released a new live set which for the moment seem to be a European only release – however, it is available through Amazon.com. We have a lot of Blues fans here in the US but we’re spread out. There are tons of Blues fans in Europe but not as far between as here. Blues bands and acts can make a great living and pack venues all across Europe. It’s a wonderful thing but it’s a damned shame it’s so hard to make it happen here. This set has Lucky treating one of those crowds to an electrifying set of Blues.

And last but not least, we have the return of Barry Levenson with The Visit. The Visit is not yet available at retail. It hits the streets in July but right now you can order the CD from Rip Cat Records and Barry’s proceeds from the sales will go to MS research. We have a preview of a the disc for you below that Barry posted on YouTube a while back. Barry is an expressive player who follows the less-is-more approach and his rhythm chops are impeccable. Listening to his playing like getting a lesson in subtlety from a true master musician. Take advantage of this opportunity to get the new CD before it hits retail.

Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth Bound By The Blues

Royal Southern Brotherhood

Royal Southern Brotherhood Don’t Look Back

Lucky Peterson

Lucky Peterson Live In Marciac 2014

Barry Levenson

Barry Levenson The Visit

Royal Southern Brotherhood live at LMF JazzFest 2015

Barry Levenson “Ice Cold Kiss” from The Visit