Blues Bytes

Surprise

December 2020

Ben Levin
Carryout Or Delivery

VizzTone

Ben Levin

Have you noticed the proliferation of younger blues artists entering the scene in the last few years? If you haven't, I recommend that you scour our January Top Ten lists for such emerging artists and get familiar with the very fine music coming out in recent years.

One such performer is Ben Levin, who just recently released his second album, Carryout Or Delivery (VizzTone), while just 21-years-old. It follows his very fine Before Me release that was recorded when Levin was still a teenager. He's already a triple threat, skilled on keyboards while also a strong singer and gifted songwriter. Levin is backed here by his dad, Aron Levin, on guitar, drummer Oscar Bernal and bass player Chris Douglas, and the diversity of material on Carryout Or Delivery demonstrates his growth as an artist since his previous album.

Levin kicks off the album with a blues shuffle original, "You Know," starting with a rollicking piano solo that proves right away that the kid knows how to pound the ivories. That maturity in his music shows on the next cut as Levin takes the listener down to New Orleans and gets pretty funky on the pandemic-related "Stuck." His strong vocals belie his age as he laments the fact that he's tired of being stuck at home. Levin switches over to the electric piano for the slow blues, "Too Good For Me," still another original number on which he professes that his woman is just too good for him.

The highlight of Carryout Or Delivery comes next with the title cut, one that's just so suitable for this wretched pandemic. It's got a 1940s vibe, with a percussove beat while Levin growls out the vocals about how he's available to be "... your personal Amazon man ..." Several members of the Levin family and a couple of other guests join in on background vocals. Another favorite number is the lightning fast instrumental number, "Nola Night," a New Orleans/Latin kind of thing, with Levin pounding away on the piano keys.

Levin is from Cincinnati and is still in college, but the young man has a heavy infusion of New Orleans in his soul. Most notable is when he summons his inner Professor Longhair on the Bill Nettles 1949 tune, "Hadacol Bounce," which was later covered by Mr. Longhair (aka Roy Byrd) himself. Another song with a Louisiana sound is the slow ballad, "Papercut," co-written by the father and son Levin combo.

More than just a piano player, Levin shows off his skill on organ with a cover of the Harold Burrage slow blues instrumental, "The Buzzard," with very tasty guitar accompaniment from the senior Levin. Organ and guitar are both strong on "My Back Scratcher," a mid-tempo blues original done long ago by Mississippi Delta bluesman Frank Frost.

Closing this very fine album is one more cover, Floyd Dixon's "Time Brings About A Change," with both a gospel and ballad vibe to it. Aron Levin's guitar playing really stands out on this one.

I hope that I've encouraged our readers to explore the plethora of strong blues albums that have been put out by young performers from around the world. Checking out Ben Levin and his Carryout Or Delivery album would be a good start as we keep trying to keep the blues alive.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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