Tune into Levi – it is totally worth it

An odd thing, perhaps, for a music website to say, but the internet has really messed up music.

Listening to these EP’s from Red Deer, Alberta’s Levi Cuss took us back to the glory days of the mid 90s when many a lunchtime was spent looking for unheard gems in the singles collection in the record shop across the road from work.

Kids today won’t remember the sheer joy of the B-side, the unreleased track on the back of the main song you knew. They won’t remember how exciting it was and how many times the treasures found on these things were better than those on the album.

Levi Cuss might. In fact, Levi Cuss looks like the sort of fella that collected these things himself. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that is precisely why he has made “Just Below Radio Volumes 1 & 2”.

On tour in Europe earlier in the year he apparently became inspired, and the result is these eight songs. Songs of the same heart-wrenching honesty and dark humour that pervaded his “Night Thief” album (re-released earlier in the year to coincide with the tour) but with a lot more besides, as there is a feeling that Cuss has really stretched himself here, and with glorious results.

“…Vol 1” kicks off with “White Lies” and comes in with a dirty blues groove – and lyrics to match: “I don’t know just where she’d been” opines Cuss, “but she’d been sleeping with all of my friends….”

MV has no idea whether this is a (loose) concept record, but we do know that the next song “One Night Stand” finds him on the internet dating scene, and the bar room, Georgia Satellites, feel of the track is perfect for the fun air (“I thought she was purdy and tall – and she loved my big balls” he almost grins at one point).

It doesn’t end well, although the next track, the country flavoured “Hardwood” casts him in a “gawd damn hot mess”. Go Levi, is all we can say.

The brutal honesty of “…Thief” really set it apart from your usual Americana, and its back on “The Hunt”, but what is particularly interesting about this is that the music builds itself to a real “Exile On Main St” era Stones structure.

The second half opens with “Shoreditch High” – written in London about Cuss’ love for the city. Clever wordplay in the sphere of Dylan, it is very possibly the only song in history to rhyme “burka” with “sex worker” and surely that deserves your attention if nothing else does….

For all the knockabout stuff, Cuss is a tremendously skilled songwriter and storyteller. “Blew It All Away” has the air of DBT at their most mournful – “the war on drugs is in your head” feels like a key line here you suspect.

“Junction 21” finds him in a kind of stripped down, funky mood, and “Alena” benefits from superb organ work to go along with its bluesy intention and rounds off a fabulous eight songs.

As a standalone album, it would have been fabulous, but somehow making them two EP’s only adds to the appeal as a kind of throwback. Above all else though, “Just Below Radio Volume’s 1 & 2” confirm Levi Cuss as one of the most original songwriters around at the moment.

Rating 8.5/10

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