Adam Levy – Naubinway
Adam Levy’s resume speaks for itself and explains why the music on his solo album Naubinway is so wildly diverse. With his main band the Honeydogs he’s traversed the mountains of folk, pop, jazz, soul, psychedelic rock and roots music. He has his electronic/experimental side with Liminal Phase, chamber pop in And the Professors, the soul/funk explosion of Hookers $ Blow and the pure jazz of Rose Room… There is literally nothing Levy CAN’T do and on his latest solo album he cranks out all of these sounds and more with the skill of a master arranger, writer, composer and singer.
Naubinway marinates in rustic acoustic guitars and folk-lathered influences straight from the 60s and 70s, as exemplified by rollicking, bare bones weepers such as “Take It As It Comes,” “Potter’s Field,” “How I Let You Down,” “Pitch Black Path,” “Marigold” and the title track. The majority of the music in this set of tunes relying on Levy’s unplugged guitar licks and his steady vocal range that mines all of the right valleys and ascends all of the proper peaks. Sometimes a rush of percussion or a bass guitar groove will lend weight to these originals, but for the most part Levy holds attention spans at a dead stop all by his lonesome. That’s the mark of a great songwriter and player; if you can do the work of a band by yourself.
The album is not a one-sided affair though and would probably run out of steam by the finish line if it was. Thirteen tracks is a lot of ground to cover, so Levy constantly shifts the songwriting style into other ventures whenever he feels like it. “Atoms Never Die” blends acoustic folk guitar with reverberating, oscillating electronics and fuzzy guitar expulsions that hearkens to his work in the electronic, experimental and chamber pop genres. It’s an affecting little dab of indie-pop with catchy vocal phrasings, yet packed with enough ripples of sound to really make it worthy of the repeat button. Also differentiating itself from the rest of the record, “This Friend” begins as traditional acoustic ramblings that progress and allow the entrance of other ideas as the song comes to a logical conclusion; a keyboard sprinkled here, a heavier distorted riff there and a fully fleshed out drum n’ bass push by the backing band a constant throughout. “When Your Well Runs Dry” and “Eucatastrophe” tinker with pianos, cellos, bask-masking and electronic deviance for songs that are epic in scope yet concisely delivered; the former being a gorgeous slice of balladry and the latter turning into a downbeat rock song that emphasized some pounding drumming as it slithers to a climactic endnote.
Again the stylistic game challenges its audience when slide and pedal steel guitars add hickory smoke and downhome cooking to “Clemens in Plainview,” “I Wish You Well” and “Handful of Sand.” These tunes are practically the antidote to the country-rap, junk food music movement that has overtaken country stations that no longer have an interest in guitar-driven, tearjerker arrangements. It’s yet another facet of Levy’s songwriting ethic and he does it as well as everything else on the album.
While a couple of weak moments and a few instances of the record make one hope that Adam Levy would just settle into a singular sound, Naubinway yields a great payoff to the patient because of its brave songwriting standards. Levy refuses to play it safe and the result is 13 songs that have individual personality.
8 out of 10 stars.