BluesWax Rating: 8
There Are Barns Burning in Kansas
Levee Town, the Kansas City quartet known for their hard rockin’ blues and tenaciousness on the live music circuit, plays tight as ever on their newest release, Pages of Paperwork. The band consists of Brandon Hudspeth on guitar and vocals, Jimmie Meade on harmonica and vocals, Jacque Garoutte on bass and vocals, and Jan Faircloth on drums. The album is a collection of fourteen original barnburners.
“Funny Money,” one of the standout songs that immediately caught my attention, has a sort of mid-’60’s British Invasion sound to it. It’s funky, bluesy, and embarrassingly catchy. This is one of the two songs I keep going back to for repeated listening. The other is “Song She Sang,” a hard-driving rockabilly tune accented by a “Munsters-esque” bass line mashed up with haunting echo-filled guitar licks, much like those of the great Reverend Horton Heat.
Other go-to songs include “The Ring” and “Show Them Whatcha Got.” “The Ring,” a boogie-filled treat about breaking the bad news about a deceitful wife to one’s best friend, features some nice jam and great slide from Hudspeth. As if inspired by the North Mississippi Allstars’ version of “Shake ’em on Down,” Levee Town tells us to shake it one more time in the track “Show Them Whatcha Got.” Here the band shows off their melting vocal harmonies and precise musicianship again. Meade’s harp playing is really enjoyable, as is Hudspeth’s guitar picking.
There really is not a bad song on the whole disk. Pages of Paperwork is a excellent album and is sure to please most everyone. It sure pleased me.
Phillip Smith is a contributing writer to BluesWax.
Big City Blues
Speaking of Levee Town, the band celebrates its ninth year as a band with the release of their latest CD, “Pages of Paperwork”. Every track on this set was done very well. The songwriting, the performances, the production are all top notch. The feeling here is the band decided to eschew pop sensibilities and just lay down straightforward stuff (Traditional Blues, Rock-a-Billy, Boogie, maybe a little Funk) that represents more of what the band is about in a live setting. There’s not very much flashiness on this CD; minimal overdubbing, no studio tricks and gimmickry. This is just Levee Town the Band, right there for you. These guys have been together a long time and it shows in the tightness of the performances. Everyone in the band seems to know what the other is going to do, and they pull it off without being predictable to the listener. “Pages of Paperwork” is well worth your time, check it out! Levee Town plays venues all over the Kansas City area, including an Open Jam every Sunday afternoon at Knuckleheads Saloon, but they have been playing shows all over the map. You can catch them at the Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis on August 19-20 and the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 21. For more info on the band check out: www.leveetown.com.
Coyote Bill is a contributing writer to Big City Blues
Based in Kansas City and clearly helping to energize the city’s resurgent blues scene, Levee Town is a tough-minded quartet (guitar, harmonica, bass, drums) boasting original songs from three band members, stellar musicianship (especially that of Jimmy Meade, whose harp work is a revelation throughout in its scintillating blend of idiomatic virtuosity and searing emotional components), striking vocals, and a feeling for post-war Chicago blues that recalls nothing so much as the ferocity of the early Rolling Stones, with some southern rock and Texas blues flourishes mixed in for good measure. Even the young Stones, though, would have trouble matching the intensity of Brandon Hudspeth’s sense of betrayal on his “Hurt But Strong,” with a vocal performance of sinister, seething grandeur that he actually surpasses at the 3:55 mark of this 5:31-length track with a downright scary guitar solo of sustained howling, trembling, moaning and screaming—woe be to the woman who inspired his grievances but thanks to her cold, cold heart we have a new blues number of substantial magnitude. Actually, “Hurt But Strong” is the second part of a two-pronged payback, following as it does another Hudspeth original, “Lowdown,” a stomping, driving, accusatory kissoff (“the memory of you/can’t be too soon forgot”) propelled in equal measure by Hudspeth’s screaming guitar and Meade’s unforgiving harmonica fury. And to extend this to a trifecta, these two numbers follow bassist Jacque Garoutte’s album opening “Paperwork,” the calm before the storm in being a slow but wrenching adieu to love gone south, notable for the morose thump of Garoutte’s bass and his pain-wracked vocal, with added doleful ambiance supplied by Meade’s shimmering harp and Hudspeth’s stinging guitar solos.
Such are the themes (or theme) dominating Pages of Paperwork. Which is not to say every song asks why love has got to be so sad. There is, for instance, the cheerful shuffle of Garouette’s “Angel On My Shoulder,” an out-and-out celebration of a gal Garouette extols as “sent from above,” featuring Hudspeth and Meade on lively guitar and harmonic soloing throughout. Much like the opening trifecta of broken hearted blues, “Angel On My Shoulder” is the latter half of a double-shot upbeat passage kicked off by “Show Them Watcha Got”: boogiein’ and chooglin’ all the way, Levee Town takes Hudspeth’s ode to a certain lady’s physical charms out onto the dance floor with wild, raucous energy in support of his lustful proclamations.
These, however, are exceptions to the rule. Otherwise the band unburdens itself of missives such as “Four Leaf Clover,” a thumping, fierce track—some Skynyrd influence surfaces here in Hudspeth’s guitar work—obliterating “the evilest woman I ever seen.” The foot-stompin’ attack of “The Ring” serves a story about a wife spotted, ringless, fooling around with another man at a whiskey bar. “Don’t Wanna Wait” burns with a righteous ‘60s-ish rock pulse but happens to be about a guy vowing patience until his gal gets out of jail. Is it any wonder Hudspeth would write something such as “So Many Pages”? In this, a pounding scorcher in the Butterfield Blues Band mode, driven ceaselessly forward by guitar and harmonica, the singer accuses his partner of deceptive packaging (“I started reading from front to back/it was much different than what I saw on the rack”) and prepares to hit the road. Blues bands all over the world are working this same turf—these are, after all, timeless blues topics—but on its fourth album, Levee Town starts moving away from the pack. Always an impressive band of musicians, its tunesmiths have stepped onto a higher rung with Pages of Paperwork. It whets the appetite for the next chapter.
Blues In The South
Artist: Levee Town
Title: Pages of Paperwork
Kansas City’s Levee Town are simply carrying on from where they left off with their last album, for they kick-off with a low down filthy dirty irresistible Chicago Blues slowburner of a title track, a haunting sinister harp riff matched by a staccato guitar leading to a tastefully paced mournful guitar solo underpinned by solid sympathetic drumwork. A devastating slide dominates the equally pain fuelled “Hurt But Strong,” The mood lightens with a fast moving shuffle on “Lowdown,” injecting a much appreciated stomping rocking guitar blast! These three numbers from a set of fourteen originals amply display what L.T. are about, absorbing the blues with every influence gratefully received and reformed into a seriously stonkin’ set of blues, from emotion laden Chicago Blues and swinging Country Blues shuffles to Rockabilly and Honky Tonk to what sounds strangely like a Surf sound. If there were still such things as singles a prime contender would certainly be the effervescing, jaunty jumping rockabilly “Song She Sang,” with it’s very similar dreamy, spooky foot-tapping urging ‘Munsters’ (sixties television show) bass riff.
Without a shadow of a doubt this band set you swinging as if from tree to tree. Not only that, but their playing is razor sharp and as tight as an oyster in the sea! Some might be picky and say that there are similarities to the Stones and the Yardbirds but, I would ask you, where did they get their blues from?
One for the collection!
Levee Town has long been one of the hardest working bands in the blues. Since 2002, they have attracted many fans with their live shows and appearances at various festival. They have appeared twice in the IBC’s, making the finals in 2007 and the semi-finals in 2010, and they have released three previously well-received albums. Their latest release, Pages of Paperwork, continues their hot streak as they expand upon their unique interpretation of the blues, updating the sounds of traditional blues.
The new release features fourteen original tracks, which cover a variety of styles. The title track opens the disc, and it’s a tight slow Chicago blues track with some fine harp work from Jimmie Meade and guitar from Brandon Hudspeth. The rocker, “Lowdown” follows, then a masterful slow boogie, “Hurt But Strong.” “Song She Sang” is straight-up rockabilly with some fine guitar work from Meade, and “Funny Money” and “Four Leaf Clover” lean toward the R&B/pop side with some nice harmony vocals mixed in. “Show Them Whatcha Got” has that great swampy Magic Sam boogie rhythm.
“Angel on my Shoulder” is another rugged boogie track, and “I’m Gonna Leave” is a funky Chicago shuffle punctuated by Meade’s harmonica and harp mike vocal. “It’s Been So Long” features Hudspeth playing some inspired slide guitar. “The Ring” is a Hill Country stomper with more searing slide mixed in. “So Many Pages” is a cleverly written rocker, using a book as metaphor for a relationship. “Don’t Wanna Wait” is a solid rock and roll track and foreshadows the country blues-flavored “When You Comin’ Home.”
Hudspeth, Meade, and bass player Jacque Garoutte all take their turns at lead vocals and also team up for solid harmonies with drummer Jan Faircloth. Pages of Paperwork offers a solid set of original blues rooted firmly in the traditional blues sound, but also mixed with traces of rock, country, and even a little bit of pop.
Blues Fest Guide
Pages of Paperwork is the fifth installment in Levee Town’s catalog. With a sound built on years of constant performing and songwriting, the band has created a hard-driving, smoothly-polished, soulful record.Pages of Paperwork exhibits a maturity and sophistication borne of heartbreak and the joy of personal resurgence. Songwriters Hudspeth, Garoutte, and Meade share a convergent vision of the world-at-large and craft their individual tunes in a similar vein. The band chugs along with astonishing energy and focus. Vocally, Levee Town is obviously comfortable performing an ever-widening array of styles.From rocking shuffles to grinding slow blues to North-Mississippi-style rockers to KC swing numbers, Pages Of Paperwork is an exhilarating breath of fresh air and a joy to take in.
Blues In The South
LEVEE TOWN: Pages of Paperwork
54min 05 secs
By their own admission, “Levee Town is a hot rockin’ Americana foursome out of Kansas City” and who am I to disagree with that. The band consists of Jan Faircloth on drums Jacques Garoutte a multi-instrumentalist on the bass; Jimmie Meade plays the harmonica and the band is fronted by axeman Brandon Hudspeth and the music they produce is B L U E S pure and simple. Right from the get-go, with the title-based track, a slow blues – It’s All Over But The Paperwork – in which the singer bewails the end of a relationship and the Meade harp work surges and falls back in away that reminds me of James Cotton with Muddy – things are right-on blues. Hudspeth brings some inventive guitar work to the killing floor and all the time the rhythm section keeps a steady beat, perfectly supporting the front-line. Lowdown, the next track up, is a rocker with some driving rhythm guitar and a searing solo from Meade, “I took your picture down and changed the lock, but the memory of you can’t be soon forgot…that’s lowdown baby……” Fabulous. A Muddyesque lick opens Hurt But Strong, which is is a twelve bar slow blues; a real plodder in the walking blues sense; but nothing plodding about the music. More fine harp work here too and a head nodding, rhythmic power from the band. I bet this is a killer live. Ready… arm up in the air, light from the cell phone on and sway to the beat. This is the type of right-ahead blues – including some slide work – which you too rarely hear these days. Nearly five and a half minutes that hit you in the face. Wonderful. Song She Sang, is a Peter Gunn like riff-driven rocker, with a close harmony chorus and some delightful picking by Mr Hudspeth……. and the beat goes on. I like this one so much, I am in danger of trying to sell every track on this album, No need, just let me say that the straight-at-cha blues goes on to the very end; 54:mins and 5 seconds, so no short change here – 14 tracks of pure pleasure, which surely must get some recognition in the traditional blues categories of awards ceremonies before long. These guys really do keep the blues alive with gusto and fire and are not ashamed (as far too many seem to be these days) to remember, as Willie Dixon put it that ‘blues is the roots, everything else is the shoots’. Long may they continue to do so.
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has two web-cast regular blues radi,o shows. One on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central), the second on KCOR – Kansas City Online Radio (on Fridays at 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).
Midwest Record Review
LEVEE TOWN/Pages of Paperwork: First class blues vocal group that leaves nothing to chance shows they are here to deliver the goods and then some. Brimming with hometown Kansas City verve, this is an sweet, update on northern migration blues with out the jack hammer beat pounding it out in the background. Surely a late night record that makes the empty hours less so, you don’t have to be a blues fan to flip for this as it has a certain something that everyone can relate to. Killer stuff.
Nashville Blues Society
PAPERWORK–LOWDOWN–HURT BUT STRONG–SONG SHE SANG–FUNNY MONEY–SHOW THEM WHATCHA GOT–ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER–FOUR LEAF CLOVER–I’M GONNA LEAVE–IT’S BEEN SO LONG–THE RING–SO MANY PAGES–DON’T WANNA WAIT–WHEN YOU COMIN HOME … Their spot in the finals of the 2007 IBC’s and return to the semifinals in 2010 guaranteed that Levee Town would become one of the hardest-working bands on the scene today. This Kansas City foursome have parlayed these IBC appearances into festival dates nationwide, as well as gaining a growing legion of fans. On their latest release, “Pages Of Paperwork,” the fellows present fourteen originals that push the envelope of traditional blues, adding sweet touches of the classic Chicago sound, elements of the Hill country, and even a little rockabilly into the mix. These guys are immensely talented, and one listen to this set and you can see why. Brandon Hudspeth can play anything you can think of on guitar, as can Jimmie Meade on harp. The backbeats are provided by Jacque Garoutte on bass, and Jan Faircloth on drums, the only member who does not add vocals. Check out the Eddie Cochran-inspired vibe of “Song She Sang,” with a cool guitar solo at the bridge. Jimmie’s harp turns the highly-danceable “Show Them Whatcha Got” into an irresistible, Excello-styled romper, while “So Many Pages” has Brandon weaving a tale of lovers who are “on the same page,” just “in different books,” and has a killer hi-tech solo from Brandon, too. The set closes with a sweet little acoustic guitar and harp trip down to the Delta, “When You Comin Home?” All the cuts are quality stuff, but we did have a few favorites. “The Ring” uses the droning beat of the Hill Country to convey its message of infidelity “down at the casino.” “It’s Been So Long” has Brandon’s wailing slide front and center, while Jimmie’s harp gets a good workout on the ultra-funky “Funny Money.” And, the opening slice of slow-blues finds two lovers throwing in the towel, and “all that’s left is The Paperwork!” Great musicianship, clever songs, and their unbridled passion for the blues in all its various incantations is what sets Levee Town apart from other bands. And, with a cool set such as “Pages Of Paperwork,” these guys are poised for a major breakout!! Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow.
Nashville Music News
Based of Kansas City, the quartet known as Levee Town is one of the most musically diverse that I have heard in some time. On some cuts, like “Don’t Wanna Wait,” they sound similar in fashion to 70s groups like the Eagles. Then, on “When Yoi Comin’ Home,” there’s very much a country style arrangement that comes to the forefront. Most of the time, at least on this album, there’s an old school blues sound that is very much authentic – especially on the opener, “Paperwork,” as well as on “Funny Money,” which has the best parts of Motown and Stax combined. There is a funky and bouncy sound to the charming “Song She Sang,” and you can hear the influence of the one and only B.B. King coming to the forefront of “Angel On My Shoulder,” which is another highlight of the disc. Another place where this album excels is in the instrumentation work. Brandon Hudspeth’s guitar, as well as the harmonica of Jimmie Meade, can be heard across the entire album, but especially on “I’m Gonna Leave.” From start to finish, this is a very enjoyable disc – one that shows that Levee Town can do a lot of different things musically, and do each of them well! by Chuck Dauphin
Rock Over America
|You’re always curious about what’s in store when you get a CD from a band that you aren’t familiar with. Even more so when you’re told it’s a Blues band. There are so many different styles of this great genre that it’s always a roll of the dice. Will I love it, hate it, or be a bit indifferent to the whole thing? Happily, Levee Town got my attention, and kept it with some great playing, lyrics, and effortless moves from one style of Blues to another.Levee Town is a four piece out of Kansas. All four members take a turn at vocals, so you never get tired of hearing one voice. Jimmie Meade plays a mean harp that has you ready to run out and buy one for yourself. I would myself, but I would never measure up and it would be put in a drawer as an ode to failure. Brandon Hudspeth handles the guitar, and can play just about anything you can think of. Moving from shuffle to rockabilly with ease he’s quite impressive. Jacque Garoutte lays down smooth bass lines to get you grooving, and Jan Faircloth pulls it all together with some really tight beats.There were a few surprises on the CD. “Show Them Watcha Got” is by far my standout song. It’s got a great feel to it that makes you want to shake what your momma gave ya! Awesome harmonies, great picking, and fun lyrics make this a song that you want to listen to again and again. “Song She Sang” took me back to my days in front of the TV watching Herman and Lily with my dad. Listen to the bass line and you’ll understand, I promise!“I’m Gonna Leave” had me thinking of the great Chicago Blues style. Heavy on harp, and the vocal track is something different. It takes you back to the time when Chicago was THE place for the Blues. “When You Comin’ Home” reminds me a lot of The Black Crowes believe it or not. The style is similar, as is the sound.All in all, this is a solid CD that will keep you interested, tapping your toes, and longing for the ability to play like them. If you’re a fan of the Blues or Americana, and not afraid to hear something that’s a little different this is one for you to check out.Melissa Martinez|