Reviewed by: Jane Roser
Levi Lowrey’s sophomore album, released today through Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists, is nothing short of what I can only describe as what legends are made of. Lowrey comes from a long line of musical geniuses, starting with his great great grandfather, fiddler Gid Tanner. Tanner founded the Skillet Lickers, which became one of the first commercially successful country bands and gave respectability to a genre of music previously defined as “hillbilly” music.
Produced and recorded in Nashville at Southern Ground Studios, Lowrey’s self-titled album features Clay Cook (of the Zac Brown Band), fiddler Ross Holmes (Mumford and Sons and Cadillac Sky), Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Mac McAnally. Besides Lowrey’s version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, four of the 15 songs on this album were written solely by Lowrey, while the rest are co-written by him and showcase Lowrey’s talent as a frank, nostalgic and heartfelt songwriter.
The album contains some lovely ballads that explore faith, redemption and the highs and lows of being raised in the Bible Belt (Lowrey’s from Dacula, Georgia). Lowrey’s smooth, soulful vocals emphasize each lyric poignantly and poetically as a storyteller enraptures his audience, so you are apt to listen to every syllable carefully because you don’t want to miss what comes next.
“That Is All” starts off with dynamic guitar riffs and percussion that punctuates each lyric: “Do you believe that heaven waits just beyond the pearly gates? Do you think you are reborn to try again? And maybe one day you’ll get it right and walk forever in the light. Do you think you have that power in your hands?” Something about this song reminded me of Cream’s “White Room”, or imagining if the devil went down to Georgia and came back empty handed; and the finale rocks out faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.
“Long Way Home” is a beautiful acoustic guitar driven ballad with lyrics so simple, yet incredibly profound: “I’ve wasted hours praying for rain and I cursed the clouds when they finally came.” And, “I’ve never been lost, but I’ve been turned around.”
“I’ve Held The Devil’s Hand” is a fun tune that incorporates harmonica and banjo and tells the story of his history of self-destructive behavior and how singing in church helped him find his way. Listening to this song reminded me of my 99 year old great aunt who was an elementary school principal in Valdosta, Georgia in the 1960s. If a kid behaved badly, she would make him sit in her office and read aloud from the Bible and “they were never bad again after that.”
Lowrey’s tour starts this Tuesday and will hit Joe’s Pub in New York, World Cafe Live in Philly, Jammin’ Java in Virginia and a plethora of other venues. And you can bet your britches I’ll be there enjoying the ride.