East Side Slim
Levee Town – Levee Town – artist released, 2009
Levee Town is a long-running band based in Kansas City. To this writer, the band's sound is well summarized as roots rock, encompassing blues (lots of it), rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, swamp pop, country, and swing – AMERICAN music! The lineup is comprised of an extremely versatile 4-piece: Brandon Hudspeth (guitars, vocals), Jimmie Meade (harmonica and some vocals), Jan Faircloth (drums, percussion, some vocals) and Jacque Garoutte (bass, guitar and vocals). Notice to the harmonica junkies out there, Jimmie Meade may be a relatively unknown quantity to you, but he shouldn't be. This cat can play, and if you enjoy harp players who blow hard, such as Cotton or Butterfield, you'll likely get a kick out of Jimmie's work. Most of the vocals are handled by Hudspeth and Garoutte, and both are very capable singers. Neither will blow the house down with powerhouse singing, but both know how to put a song across and do it well. Hudspeth's guitar work also deserves mention, as he is an extremely tasteful player, well-versed in all the American music styles, and is able to handle everything from a whisper to a scream. Nice work, indeed!
The Songs: (songwriters in parentheses)
1. I'm Not Broke – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--This high-energy tune is a tough bluesy rockabilly number featuring heavy harp work from Jimmie Meade. If you happen to be familiar with the music of Richard Newell, aka King Biscuit Boy, you'll have a good feel for this one. In fact, it sounds very similar to one of Newell's signature tunes…I'm sure it's just influences showing, right boys?
2. Three Sides – (Jacque Garoutte)
--This fun shuffle is sung by bass player Garoutte, and features Meade's harp-as-sax accompaniment and Hudspeth's tasteful guitar playing. Three sides to every story…your truth, my truth, then there's the real truth…ain't that the truth!
3. You Mean – (Jimmie Meade)
--As this is the only tune on the CD written by harp-master Meade, you can pretty much guess that he is featured here. It's a very heavy, menacing slow blues, one which would fit well into the songbook of Lester Butler (The Red Devils, "13"). Great stuff!
4. Why Why Why – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--Here we have a swingin' rocker, written and sung by Hudspeth. Think Buddy Holly or Everly Brothers on steroids…the cut has the happy-sounding pop sensibilities of those artists laid on top of a raw, rockin' edge. To this reviewer, this song pretty much encapsulates the sound of Levee Town – bluesy, swingin', rockin', and tuneful, with a heavy edge provided courtesy of Meade's work on harmonica.
5. Broken Jar – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--This one works a bit of the Excello sound, swamp pop "innocence" with what sounds like double-tracked lead vocals. The song starts off sorta pretty like, but then grows a certain toughness as it ambles along.
6. Rhythm Man – (Jacque Garoutte)
--In all honesty, the 1st couple times I listened to this song it didn't really work for me, but as I listened harder the tune really caught hold of me. It's got a stop-time tempo, a slightly menacing swampy feel, and what may (or may not) be autobiographical lyrics by bass-man Garoutte.
7. Vegas – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--Another tune by guitarist Hudspeth, this one shows his love of early rock 'n' roll and rockabilly sounds. It features a twangy Telecaster type of guitar tone and a sweet harp solo from Jimmie Meade, as well as a nice slide guitar solo from Mr. Hudspeth. It's too bad that "new country music" doesn't sound more like this, because this is where it's at.
8. KC Killa – (Jacque Garoutte)
--Here's another one from bass player Garoutte. All of his songs feature interesting rhythms, which probably shouldn't be a surprise – he is one half of the band's rhythm section. The song is basically a re-arrangement of Kansas City (Going to Kansas City), featuring a slinky, almost late-night rhythmic feel.
9. Etta – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--This is a hard-core rockabilly-based rocker in all the best ways. Pulsing rhythms, melodic structure, growly AND jangly guitars, screaming harp….cool! The review will continue after a visit with the repeat button…
10. Heartless Is The Winter – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--This is a long one, running almost 7 minutes. It starts as a slow blues, slowly building in intensity until it reaches a heavy blues-rock crescendo. Brandon takes the vocals here, and while I enjoy his vocals on most of his songs this tune seems to call for a stronger-voiced singer. Brandon has nice voice (but not a "big" voice), he works well with what he has, but the tempo and feel of this song seems to scream out (pun not intended) for a big-voiced singer, especially as the song builds in intensity. I'm just thinking how this cut would sound with a guest vocalist, someone such as Danielle Schnebelen from the band Trampled Under Foot (also a Kansas City-based group by the way.)
11. Hullabaloo – (Jacque Garoutte)
--Here you go, straight ahead rockabilly. I just love the bass sound here, pluckin' that bass fiddle to help those dancers swing like crazy.
12. Rock Me Baby – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--There's nothing mysterious as to what this one is about or as to why it works. Raw rock and roll, American music, baby! This one is all attitude and testosterone, with Jimmie making that little tin box scream. Brandon does a pretty fair job of that with his wood box as well!
13. Pressures – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--This a bluesy rockin' little number with squalling, meaty harp from Meade and buzz saw guitar from Hudspeth. Think The Blasters or Rockpile, playing extremely hard and fast.
14. Chicken Truck – (Brandon Hudspeth)
--And now we are treated to a funky, swamp-tinged instrumental. Hmm…if Booker T. and the MGs had come of age on the Excello label (and if Booker T. played harmonica), maybe it would have sounded something like this?! Regardless, the tune is a lot of fun to listen to and closes the CD out in fine fashion.
If Strongman-Quinton has his way, you will buy this CD. And if you want to know who Strongman-Quinton is, you will have to buy this CD! The music that Levee Town plays is very much in the category that the The Blasters espoused – American music. The blues is infused to most everything the boys play, but everything is not the blues per se. You'll hear rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, country and swing influences as well, all performed with style, taste and passion. While a live show is the best way to enjoy Levee Town, this CD (also called Levee Town curiously enough) is a darn good substitute. Alright then, it's time to rate this bad boy; East Side Slim (along with Strongman-Quinton) is highly recommending this CD, to the tune of a rating of 4.00 on the STLBluesometer. And keep an eye out for the band's newest release - Pages of Paperwork - which is available now.
For more information concerning Levee Town, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka East Side Slim