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"Same Ole U" by Levi Washington

Review

It's back to business nearer usual for Levi Washington with the release of "Same Ole U". The (relatively short) hiatus in his weekly singles campaign can probably be put down to a couple of factors: most obviously he seems very busy with his award winning businesses but in addition he has tweaked his musical working practices (at least for the present): working in parallel on up to ten songs at once rather than sequentially on single ones. Consequently he has a great many in the pipeline but each one requires his attention to get it completed: and you know by now the care & effort he puts into final mixes.

I gather that as you'd expect, there are some dark ones in the offing, but for the moment he's treated us to one of the lighter tunes for the holiday period.

Again it's the sort of tune that the many people who catch Levi live each week would expect from his sets: an R&B styled piece about "love gone wrong" (a favourite subject for him), it seems to have taken him comparatively little time to compose, which shows in the instinctive flow to it & the sense of spontaneity adds to its charms.

An obvious point of reference for me is Prince: it has the same light touch of funkiness & good humour  & although spontaneous, is far from "simple": there are so many subtle touches & sudden unexpected shifts and surprises. A particular favourite element for me is the interplay between the vocals: great fun, though how he intends to replicate that live……

I suppose as a reviewer I ought to buckle myself in for the darker tracks ahead (for Levi can be very sombre & raw) but for the moment, with the sun outside, "Same Ole U" evokes the move into Spring.

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"Mind Right (Remix)" by Levi Washington with Brudez & Cub$

Review

It was grand indeed to catch up with Levi Washington live on Sunday on the Bandstand, but it's back to the weekly business as usual now with his latest recording release, a remix of "Mind Right", whose original version we reviewed back in January.

This time though, it's more than just a case of tweaking the knobs into different positions on the board, as Levi has welcomed Brudez (no stranger to "Hot Music Live" readers) and Cub$ onboard to offer additional rap contributions to the song in question.

Each certainly adds new thoughts to whatever Levi had in mind originally (and you'll see from my review of the first version that I wasn't entirely sure myself). I still wonder how much mental health musing is involved at some level, though the new lyrics seem to take the song further & further from my first thoughts. I suppose by this time I ought to hold my hands up and admit I called it wrong.

I've long been a fan of Brudez who brings to the table not only technical skills, but a warm & humane approach to rapping. In a genre where aggression & putting people down has unfortunately been a notable thread, he has always been an uplifting alternative vision of what can be said.

Cub$ is new to me & his more strident rapping complements both the tune & Brudez's laid back style, creating a good tension & moments when although apparently on the verge of getting in each other's way, they generously back off and let the other have their say.

Behind it all, Levi continues as before: I'm not sure quite what he's done to the instrumental aspects (if anything) though it sounds like he's toughened it up slightly to fence with the rapping. Otherwise it is still that strange & provocative collision of psychedelic stylings, with retro & contemporary approaches.

This is precisely the sort of thing that I imagine a lot of Levi fans (at least those who see him indoors) might have expected. However he's not gone down the road of pandering to anyone's expectations in this series of weekly issues: he seems much more interested not only in exploring his own wide range of musical interests but demonstrating them to members of his public who may only have experienced some of his many facets to date.

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"Everywhere I Turn I See The Devil" by Levi Washington

Review

I was pleased to hear that Levi Washington is managing both his health issues & his rapidly expanding portfolio of commitments running live events and even has been able to offer us another single this week, albeit on the Thursday: not that it matters which day: personally I'm just glad that he is functioning on that level at all.

However it's not just a release for the sake of it (though apparently a planned collaboration, had it been completed this week might have nudged past it in the schedule), as "Everywhere I Turn I See The Devil" is without doubt already another big personal favourite of mine within this current campaign of weekly singles.

One of his more sparse arrangements, his own likening of it to the work of Johnny Cash makes much sense: not just in the bleak & sombre sound (and that peculiar feeling of dignity which is there in so many of his songs), but also in the biblical imagery of the words & the implied self criticism: the Man in Black was frequently in this mood of advising his audiences not to do as he had done. Though I would imagine that Levi has led a much more virtuous life than Johnny did from time to time. Nonetheless, how can you write a song of this nature convincingly unless you've peeped into the abyss & taken notice of what you've seen within it?

He described it so me as "spooky" and it does indeed have a sinister vibe to it, though I personally don't find it tending towards the supernatural: in fact instead of conjuring up some sort of mysterious agent of darkness, it evokes an all too real demon which lurks within each of us & can shape our actions for the worse. He wasn't too sure apparently when to share it with us, but quite apart from the fact that Hallowe'en is surely far too long to wait for such an excellent song, I think the subject matter is with us all year round, not just one night. Who could not doubt that the Devil currently walks the earth today as we see the horrific footage?

Levi tells me he "didn't try to over-think" this one, and I feel that by perhaps letting instinct prevail, it's that much better given the type of song it is. It's yet another of Levi's songs which evidence his range & like so many of his songs, it's in a style he has mastered & could realistically build a whole career out of if he simply limited himself to it.

I commend it unto you unreservedly.

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"One Too Many Times" by Levi Washington, Lewis Cutts & Caitlin McCarthy

Review

I'm sure many readers will have been saddened to hear of the illness of Levi Washington last week and his consequent hospitalisation.

The good news is that he's fortunately out & about again & running his many music nights, though even so, I was surprised that he'd managed to still get back in the "single release every week" saddle so quickly.

In fact, when Levi originally sent me the track to listen to, he inadvertently sent just the backing track to "One Too Many Times" & so well does it work as a pure instrumental that I thought (knowing Levi's predilection for the unexpected) that this time he'd gone down that route: the track sounding a little like some of the things the Style Council used to do.

Even once I'd heard it with words, I believe that were we still in the era of "A" & "B" sides to singles, the instrumental  version would make a good "B" side in its own considerable right.

That said, it's clear from what Levi says that the music, however beautifully crafted it might be (and I understand that there have been as many as 110 tracks condensed down to around ten for the music alone), the words are so key to him that he states that "I knew a year ago it was one of the best things I'd ever written".

It takes a composer to say such things about their own work as it is so difficult for a reviewer to do so: especially for one attempting to follow a developing body of work as diverse as Levi's. You'll know from past reviews how strong I consider so many of his tracks and they speak to such different aspects of his personality & interests that objectively comparing them is not easy, nor I suspect possible. Therefore if the man himself thinks that this song hits the centre of the target he's aiming at, then it counts for a lot. As he also helpfully tells us "It was born from a place or genuine heartache rather from a theoretical or fictional place like a lot of my other work." Not that I'd have necessarily been able to pick fact from fiction in his work, so effective are his skills of persuasion.

As you might expect for any Levi song, if it's not one of those which reveals itself to him instantaneously, then almost certainly you can bet that he's spent a long time honing it: and you'd be right as it's been crafted over the past year. Apparently Levi re-recorded his own vocals several times to fit in with the complex vocal harmonies (up to a dozen at once in places) and with so many tracks, the mixing task was "mammoth". But well worth it judging by the results.

The theme of the words is part of a wider exploration of the human heart that Levi has long been undertaking: in this case moving beyond the fact of a relationship which has soured into an acceptance that willing one to succeed is no guarantee that it will, or can.

Consequently, given the material informing the lyrics, it sets the song up nicely for a soulful approach & this is what he delivers (in 6/8 time) and another platform to let rip with his instrumental & vocal chops, aided by Lewis Cutts (on additional rhythm guitar) and Caitlin McCarthy (who provides layers of the harmonic structure & helped refine the lyrics). Both get a prominent credit on the sleeve

Not so credited, but equally deserving of attention is German-based drummer Taustanauhat with whom Levi has built up an online collaboration since lockdown began and whose understanding of what Levi's music is all about contributes to that quality of the music which I noted before even hearing the words.

It's hard to underestimate the importance of this song as far as its creator in concerned. The "release a week" strategy has allowed us access to far more of his songs than we dare imagine & provides a wonderful shop window into the many facets of his diverse art. However, within such a deluge of music, it's hard to form opinions about where each sits in the estimation of the writer & so I'm glad that he's so precise about this one.

Equally, most of the previous ones have tended to be "one man shows" given his capacity to be able to perform so many instruments & provide his own harmonies, so it's interesting how not only has he collaborated here on "One Too Many Times" but that in addition to waxing lyrical about the contributions of the others, he is so enthusiastic about the process of collaboration & how it drove him still further down the road of perfectionism (along which he has already travelled such a distance).

It's hard also to quantify the effect of his recent illness: such frightening events can often impel us to re-examine ourselves & respark our understanding of our need to interact & appreciate others. That said, the single was started long before he was taken ill, so cannot be a reaction to that, though I suppose it's possible that its scheduled release date might have been moved up in response.

At any rate, it is significant that such an obviously high quality & statement single marks his return to action. Levi is right back into the swing of his live sessions here, there & everywhere & let's all send him congratulations on his recovery, this great single & wish him continued good health.

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"Miss Me" by Levi Washington

Review

You can't fault Levi Washington for ambition: trying to release a new single every week against the background of organising so much live music is a big challenge, especially given the consistent quality & range displayed. You can forgive him (I certainly do) for the odd week when his song appears on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of the target Monday or even last week when it just wasn't feasible.

This week fortunately he is right back in action with "Miss Me", a composition dating back some three and a half years and which apparently only took him a short period to complete: something which is demonstrated in its immediacy & drive.

It's another hard to categorise track with a strange and attention grabbing arrangement: a sort of hardcore steampunk country sound which approaches what The Band might have come up with if they had hung out more at CBGB than the Big Pink.

Over the raw & raucous sound, Levi sneers a great deal more than I can recall him doing so, yet intriguingly he cites Luke Concannon as an influence on it: something I really didn't pick up on myself on first play. Certainly Luke tends not to go very Liamesque as Levi approaches here, though he equally does not flinch from delivering hard messages at need: albeit in a more oblique fashion. Perhaps what he means is the rootsiness of the delivery? What both writers do share is a common sense of humanity in their message: even the most cutting of critiques are delivered from such places & condemnations laced with as much compassion as the situation allows for and I think "Miss Me" scores in this respect: not least because the song goes sufficiently over the top often enough to suggest that there is tongue in cheek exaggeration in play here and the good humour deployed offsets the impression the tone of delivery may give.

So don't you worry: the bark is definitely more intimidating than the bite.

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"Carrie, Baby" by Levi Washington

Review

If last week's magnum opus "Check 1, 2" gave ample evidence of Levi Washington's perfectionism then this week's single release ...
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"Check 1, 2" by Levi Washington

Review

 For his second single of 2022, following last week's "It's Cool", Levi Washington has opted for something of an epic and once again ...
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"It's Cool" by Levi Washington

Review

I suppose with Levi Washington's campaign of releasing a single a week now so far advanced & his choice of tracks so impossible to predict, ...
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"Here To Stay" by Levi Washington

Review

Following the very successful release last week of a remake of "Sierra Leone", this week's single from Levi Washington is called "Here To Stay".
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"Sierra Leone" by Levi Washington

Review

This week's Levi Washington single took me by surprise: though in a wholly benevolent way.
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"Shank" and "Above" by Levi Washington

Review

This week, Levi Washington is surpassing even his prolific form of the past few weeks with not one but two new singles, "Shank" and "Above".
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"Noughts & Crosses" by Levi Washington

Review

Thankfully after managing to catch up with Levi Washington's weekly singles release campaign with "On The Wrong Side Of The Sunshine" last week ...
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"On The Wrong Side Of The Sunshine" by Levi Washington

Review

Having been too slow in my response to last week's Levi Washington single "Soph", thanks in part to a heads up from the artist himself (thank ...
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"Soph" by Levi Washington

Review

The main problem with trying to review the more prolific releasers of new music locally is actually keeping up with them.
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"My Own Way" by Levi Washington

Review

After the double whammy of last week's releases of the singles "Shelter" & "Focus" (as reviewed in this magazine), Levi Washington has now ...
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"Polaroids of Yesteryear" by Levi Washington

Review

To say that I was stunned by the new Levi Washington single "Polaroids of Yesteryear" (which you can hear at 1800 tomorrow, the first of September, ...
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