Blues Underground Network
Barry Levenson "The Late Show"
"For A Little Bit of Money, You Get A Whole Lot of Blues" is one of the lines off of Track 2, "Whole Lotta Blues", of Barry Levenson's "The Late Show", and really when it comes to this album, those words couldn't be more true, for a couple of reasons. First off, "The Late Show", clocks in at over 70 minutes, yes I said 70 minutes, which in my book is twice as long as fair number of releases out there and secondly "The Late Show" features an amazing amount of different styles of Blues, which is sure to please a wide variety of Blues fans.
Barry Levenson hails out of Pittsburgh and started his love affair with the Blues at the young age of 14, after being introduced to the music of Buddy Guy via an older friend. From then on Barry Levenson began building an amazing musical resume, with first playing in hometown blues bands, to working as a studio musician, and then moving to Boston to where he studied "arranging at the Berklee School of Music". While in Boston he also was the house guitarist at the Sugar Shack, one of Boston's more popular Rhythm and Blues clubs. When a warmer climate beckoned, Barry Levenson made the move to Southern California where he began working with many blues greats, such as, "Big Mama Thornton, Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson and J.D. Nicholson". It was not long after, that Barry landed his first recording deal with Kent Records with his own group, the Automatics. By that time Barry was also the House Producer at Kent Records.
Under his own name he released Heart to Hand for Storyville Records, an album which received numerous critical reviews, as well as, being hailed as "one of the most popular instrumental releases of the decade". Again, as with Kent Records, Barry was hired on for more then his guitar skills, and that was as a Producer and A&R man at Storyville, whoms job was to seek out "undiscovered and overlooked talent, then producing and recording them". From then on there were more releases, one of which garnered Barry an "Handy Award nomination for Song of the Year", for his release Hard Times Won and a couple of Delta Laserlight releases that including Blues heavyweights, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Mike Bloomfield, T-Bone Walker, and Bobby Bland, to name just as few. Barry Levenson, whom still resides in Southern California has probably not slowed down at all since being introduced to the Blues, and besides still being in high demand as a Studio Artist, he still finds time to work on and appear in many movies as well as on television and in commercials and lets not forget his regular gigs which include playing with the great band, Canned Heat. Now with his latest release of "The Late Show", for Rip Cat Records, Barry Levenson has, once again, brought forward his immense talents and knowledge of the Blues to give us, perhaps, one of the more impressive Blues releases, so far for 2011.
"The Late Show" consists of 15 amazing Tracks of which Barry Levenson wrote all of them, as well as, did the producing and arranging. Of the 15 Tracks, 10 are amazingly done instrumentals, which had no problem reminding me of other fantastic instrumentally forward musicians, such as Chris Dair and the great Ronnie Earl. The instrumentals also have a very good length to them, which really allows you to get caught up and swept away with them.
Barry Levenson is not credited with vocals on this album, but for the 5 Tracks which are not instrumentals, he managed to have 3 amazing vocalists which consisted of Mary Williams "Whole Lotta Blues", Finis Tasby "Slippin' Down Blues", and Johnny Dyer "One For Muddy", "Wrong Side Of The Blues", and "Drinkin' Stops Me Thinkin'", do an absolutely great job on those 5 superbly written songs. Johnny Dyer also doubled as Harpist on "One For Muddy" and "Wrong Side Of The Blues, for which he also did an amazing job. Larry "Big House" David also played fantastic Harp on the instrumental "West Side Rain".
Other wonderful performers on "The Late Show" included Blake Watson (Bass), Dave Kida (Drums), Hank Van Sickle (Bass on "Green Is Blue"), Mike Thompson (Keyboards), Phil Krawzuk and Chris Jennings (Horns) and Mike Sandberg (Percussion). With that amazing lineup of talent, "The Late Show" didn't have a chance at being anything other then a wonderful and inspired journey down Blues Lane.
With it's amazingly varied styles of the Blues, it was not easy picking out just a few favorites, but ones that stood out, with their heads just above the crowd of the others, were Track 1 "Riley's Shuffle / Blue Tears", which was the longest track on this album and the one that really peaked my interest from the get go, as well as, Track 2, "Whole Lotta Blues", which I found captivated me with the singing of Mary Williams, and Track 9 "Steel Life" which I found had a great Pulp Fiction meets Modern Western movie type feel to it.
With "The Late Show", Barry Levenson had no problem showing me just how much of an immense talent he is. His music, which of course may sound similar to others, still manages to have that special spark of uniqueness, which is purely his own.
For those of you whom love instrumentally forward albums with varying degrees of great Blues, "The Late Show" is a must have album and one that I am positive will garner many accolades and much acclaim.
Highly Recommended and Thoroughly Enjoyed. "The Late Show" is a shear musical genius at work.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
1. Riley's Shuffle / Blue Tears 7:15
2. Whole Lotta Blues 4:00
3. One For Muddy 3:20
4. Meters Runnin' 4:59
5. The Late Show 5:44
6. Turn Up The A.C. 5:33
7. Slippin' Down Blues 5:48
8. Charlie's Ride 3:21
9. Steel Life 5:55
10. Wrong Side Of The Blues 4:36
11. West Side Rain 6:09
12. Down At The Hill 6:10
13. Rush Hour 4:30
14. Drinkin' Stops Me Thinkin' 4:21
15. Green Is Blue 5:32
Listen To Samples Here...