Barry Levenson has most all the tools; the heart, the hands, the chops, and experience. What places this release a step ahead is the production, which in this is also the work of Barry Levenson.
So we’ve got a multifaceted guitarist who’s as adept behind the boards as he is in front the amp. What’s not to like? He pays deep respect to the masters; Albert, Danny, and the man with whom every blues guitarist should spend at least a lifetime studying – Grant Green.
The liner notes state that for the most part he used only a Strat on this release. If that is indeed the case, he certainly did coax a plethora of tones out of its carcass. From early Cobra Magic-era Sam and Otis, to the inimitable Mr. Green, who for the most part never played anything more solid than an ES-330. Levenson presents the listener with a CD’s worth of great guitar tones. Once again, it would have been nice to hear a vocal or two by the west coast stringer, but he chose instead to employ the tried-and-true pipes of veteran blues men Finis Tasby, and Johnny Dyer, as well as the gospel-based renderings of Mary Williams.
It will be interesting to see if Levenson uses his band as a launching pad for a variety of front people – certainly a formula that worked for the big bands of the swing era – or if he’ll try to distance himself even further from the competition by taking a stand behind the mic (as well as the board).
I doubt Ronnie Earl is ready to give up his reign just yet!
This review originally appeared in VG‘s May. ’97 issue.