Ben Levin – Carryout Or Delivery
Vizztone Label Group – 2020
12 tracks; 41 minutes
At just 21 years of age, Ben Levin is already on his third album and has received three nominations for Blues Blast awards – a pretty fair record for one so young. On this album we can see progression as Ben has written eight of the songs, one with his father Aron, and the disc is just his regular quartet, Ben on keys and vocals, Aron on guitar, Chris Douglas on bass and Oscar Bernal on drums. No special guests this time, just friends and family adding backing vocals to one track: brother Josh, Dad Aron, Howard Cohen and recording engineer Matt Hueneman. The album was recorded in June in Newport, KY. and produced by Ben and Matt.
The album opens with a run of seven originals. Ben’s piano leads us into “You Know”, a strong blues with terrific barrelhouse piano as Ben issues a warning to a girl that “if you run around on me I ain’t gonna be your fool no more”. “Stuck” is rather repetitive and perhaps the least successful track here but Ben hits another winner with “Too Good For Me”, a slow blues on which he switches to electric piano. The title track brings a jazzier feel to the album (as well as the ‘choir’ on the chorus) as Ben offers his services with a wink and a devilish smile: “I’m your personal Amazon man. I got loads of slack, everything you need. I’m coming to you on delivery”. The stop-start rhythm on “Have You Lost Your Mind?” recalls “I Ain’t Got You” and the tougher style is reflected in Aron’s jagged solo. Another switch of styles comes on “Some Other Time” with a delicate groove set by the rhythm section, Aron’s jangling chords set against Ben’s electric piano and the melodic bass well up in the mix. Ben’s vocals work well on this soulful tune which lyrically has a wistful feel as Ben searches for ways to convince a girl that he may be young but can still love her, though that may be in the future. The instrumental “NOLA Night” does what the title suggests with double-fisted piano and terrific drumming. The final original is sandwiched within the covers, an amusing song co-written by Ben and Aron in which Ben states that some things that happen emotionally hurt like a “Papercut”, another NOLA influenced piece with piano in Fats Domino style.
Ben covers four songs from a varied set of artists: Placed just before “Papercut” in the album running order, Frank Frost’s “My Back Scratcher” is another tongue-in-cheek song played here in a funky style with Ben on organ. Chicago’s Harold Burrage is the source for the blues instrumental “The Buzzard” with Ben again on organ while Bill Nettles’ “Hadacol Bounce” is probably best known from Professor Longhair’s version and Ben’s piano is very much in NOLA style here; for those unaware, Hadacol was a patent medicine marketed as a vitamin supplement though its main attraction, especially in ‘dry’ southern states, may have been the 12% alcohol included as a ‘preservative’! Floyd Dixon’s sentimental ballad “Time Brings About A Change” brings the album to a quiet close as Ben reflects on how things can change in just a year – probably very true in the meteoric rise of this young piano man
With sleeve notes written by Blues Blast’s Marty Gunther, this well written and performed album shows continuing development of a genuine talent who is spreading his wings stylistically.