Blueshine Records (Release date 15.02.15)
Levee Dwellers take their name from an amalgamation of the band’s native Dutch Delta and the New Orleans and Mississippi Delta. Their music is a subtle mix of blues, jazz and funk and it’s generally given focus by the pristine diction of vocalist Daniella Eerhart, who wraps her phrasing round some well crafted arrangements.
‘Leveling Up’ is a well played, tasteful album that spends too much time trying be an authentic blues album. The band lacks strong original material and the set only really ignites on ‘Cut You Loose’, when Daniella explores the kind of intuitive feel lacking on so much of the rest of the album. As if inspired be her performance, the band briefly stretches out with a crisp solo from guitarist Stefan Soares.
Too much of the album sounds like a claustrophobic radio session. The self penned ‘Boogie You Down’ for example, is far too clean. It’s pleasant enough, but if you’re going to play a boogie you need to do so with some evil intent.
Daniella’s vocals are consistent. if not inspired, as she sounds like jazz vocalist trying to tackle the blues. She’s displays a fine range on ‘Tell Me More’ – sounding not unlike The Blue Commotion’s Zoe Schwarz – but doesn’t emotionally engage the listener, something that can be applied generally to a workaday album.
Tenor sax player Jeroen Heeselaars adds some spirited sax lines and occasional vibrant solos, but his presence weirdly dates the album, evoking the early 70’s jazz- rock era when front line sax player were de riguer
The locked in shuffle of ‘Makes Me Wonder’ is a better arrangement, but unfortunately it’s not one of Daniella best vocals, as she sounds unsure of how to tackle the number.
Leon den Engelson’s organ, good as it is, also sounds like an unnecessary luxury on the eclectically titled ‘The Empress of Big Willy’s .’ It’s a mid-tempo arrangement that barely breaks sweat and is stretched out to accommodate his solo, whereas the fill on the end of the song has a much more significant impact
Levee Dwellers sounds like a decent club band on an album that might have come too soon for them in their career, but watch this space. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
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