CD: 13 Songs; 48:58 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues, Ensemble Blues
Whether it refers to the social presentation of a wealthy young girl, or a band’s very first album, a debut is always a risky affair. There is a chance that both kinds of debutantes won’t have many “takers” at a party, or distribute lots of “calling cards”. The same is as true of blues artists in the 21st century as it was of socialites in the 19th and 20th. The latter made a grand first impression by covering themselves with lavish gowns and fine jewelry; the former do the same by “covering” some of the most popular blues classics of all time. In both cases, high expectations must be met. The Levee Dwellers, from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, certainly sparkle on their fresh material, two songs out of thirteen on Leveling Up. As for their covers? One might think of it this way: A debutante would be mortified if she saw one of her rivals wearing the same dress on the same gala night. However, blues bands often take pride in wearing identical song “fashions” on their CD’s. Covers are a great beginning point for first-time artists, but a mediocre finish.
Perhaps a better title for the Levee Dwellers’ first release would have been Level One. Everyone must start somewhere, musician or not. As it is, they include some standards that are as well-trod as the tracks of polished shoes on a ballroom floor: “Hoodoo Man” by Junior Wells, Willie Dixon’s “Built for Comfort,” and Paul Butterfield’s “Lovin’ Cup”. Others stick out like the pitted holes of stiletto heels. They’re still covers, but less obvious: Billie Holliday’s “Tell Me More”, “Beware” by E. Randle and D. Carter, and “Cut You Loose” by B. London. On every song, they provide good energy and above-average vocals by songstress Daniëlla Eerhart. Their ensemble work is smooth, but it could use a bit more glitz and glamour.
With Eerhart on lead vocals are Jeroen Heeselaars on tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone; Onno Roëll on drums, Stefan Soares on guitars, and Ed Weeda on electric and upright bass. Guest musicians include Peter Struijk on guitar, Fran Genis on percussion, and Leon den Engelsen on Hammond organ.
The two tunes below are the only original tracks on Leveling Up, but they’re worth mentioning for another reason. They prove that sometimes, bold yet unheard statements shine the most.
Track 08: “Boogie You Down” – This barroom boogie is a growling threat as well as a festive fiesta. It’ll get people dancing, for sure, but look out: At live festivals, this one might inspire partygoers to form a mosh pit. “I’m going to boogie you six feet underground,” Eerhart warns. Savor Jeroen Heeselaars on sizzling saxophone, perfect for a summer soiree.
Track 13: “The Empress of Big Willy’s” – Traditional, auspicious number thirteen is a tale of a clairvoyant: “She knows more about your future than you ever will.” This one predicts doom – after all, this is the blues!
Hopefully, the Levee Dwellers will be Leveling Up with more original songs soon!