Lowell Levinger

Lowell Levinger
Down To The Roots

Grandpa Raccoon Records - GR5249

By David Wilson
April 2014

You may not recognize the name, Lowell Levinger, but most of you may well have heard him performing as Banana, seminal member of the ‘60s group, The Youngbloods. Today, adopting the name of a fruit would not raise an eyebrow, but in the 1962 Boston metro scene it was definitely bizarre. His raison d’ętre was primarily to draw attention to the musical group he nominally led, Banana and the Bunch, Old Timey Music with a peel. Another member of that group Rick Turner, (some of you may remember him as sideman for Canadian folksters, Ian & Sylvia) recently commented “We wound up being sort of the mascots of the previous generation of Boston/Cambridge folkies… definitely a bit more psychedelic… the next generation of folk weirdoes.”

Today, his passion for vintage stringed instruments keeps him in the material necessities of life, but making music is still the balm of his spirit of which this all acoustic blues-driven album is ample proof.

Levinger has a clear and distinct voice with just enough gnarliness to flavor each and every phrase with the proper touch of passion. The sidemen vary from cut to cut indicating this compilation was assembled, I presume, from recordings made over a period and perhaps in different locations.

The program lifts off with “Married To The Blues “and with Ry Cooder on slide guitar lending delicate nuances to the vocal performance. Barry Melton does the same a bit later on “Love Is A Five Letter Word” and Dave Grisman provides an exquisite touch to “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me,” a bit of an homage I thought to Jim Kweskin’s version of the same, and to the classic “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” restrained and passionate all at once.

There are 15 cuts, classics, some obscure, some originals, but not a throwaway among them, covering a wide range of blues stylings, country, funk, jazz and pop, and Neapolitan(?) (“L’Italiano” a bonus track) lovingly produced and with Levinger’s instrumental technique leading on most of them, each re-listening reveals further subtleties that charm this writer’s ears.

This cd may be hard to find, but well worth your effort.

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