Adam Levy Takes on Joe’s Pub

Adam Levy was born to play the guitar.  He plays with his whole body, almost like a dance, as he bends and dips, his shoulders shrug and his leg lifts.  His instrument is his dance partner in one moment and an extension of himself in the next.
At his EP release (and debut performance) at Joe’s Pub, I was reminded of how strikingly genuine he is, both as a person and as a performer.  The rich simplicity of his lyrics are akin to the stylings of James Taylor or Randy Newman, but the character in his voice is unique.  It is like smoke swirling through a dark room, unadorned yet mystifying.
This quality colors the overall easy blues sound of Levy’s band, the Mint Imperialists.  The bassist, Adam Hess, is akin to a cartoon character, the way his tall frame bends around his instrument and he plays with a sly sort of mastery. Their songs are stripped of any extraneous parts or bells and whistles, and are all the more intoxicating for it.   You can hear the haunting of harmony lines floating around Levy’s vocals but you don’t actually miss them.  The songs are certainly not lacking anything and you can sense that any other lines would only crowd the streamlined sound.
The trio (artfully rounded out by Tony Mason on drums) played songs both old and new, some of which are featured on the new EP.   As a throwback to his days playing guitar in Norah Jones’ band (whose musical sensibility is clearly on par with Levy’s own), Levy performed his own take of  “In the Morning”, a song he wrote for Jones, which brought out the song’s funky groove in a new way.  He closed his encore, alone on stage for the first time, with a stripped down solo of his latest album’s title song “The Heart Collector”.  The undertones of Latin jazz music had the audience swaying along softly to the foreboding lyrics.
Levy invited each half of the husband and wife opening duo, The Mastersons, to join him on separate songs.  These two were also born to make music; Chris with the guitar, Eleanor with the violin and her bright, effortless vocals, rippling out like silk.  They are serious crooners but there is definitely a good dose of rock to their country, or vice versa.  As performers, they are mellow and unfussy; the perfect compliment to Levy’s relaxed charm.  Levy explained that the duo has been touring non-stop, playing 105 shows in a row, without a trace of fatigue.  Their new album will definitely be one to grab when it comes out this April.

In the meantime, any opportunity to see these musicians doing what they were born to do is one that should not be missed.  I have a feeling, and a prayer, that those opportunities will be more and more frequent.
Adam Levy , “In The Morning” at Sun Studios
The Matersons, “Crash Test”

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