Bill Leverty – Deep South

January 01, 1970

(Leverty Music)


Bill Leverty is a familiar name on the American hard rock
scene; his lead guitar work has been a crucial component of Charlotte, NC,
hitmakers FireHouse since the late ‘80s. It’s been seven years since the band
released a new studio album, however, and while FireHouse appears to still be
officially active, Leverty has busied himself in the interim with a series of
solo releases, of which Deep South is the most recent. (It was initially
released in 2009 but has subsequently gotten a more extensive national rollout
this year.)


Deep South is a
remarkable departure, in fashion, for Leverty, as it comprises traditional and
public domain tunes, the result of Leverty putting in a good deal of time
researching folk, bluegrass and old-time music and gaining a newfound
appreciation of his own musical roots. To seal the deal, he found woodcut
artwork that his grandfather, William G. Leverty, had created many years earlier;
the cover depicts a horse-drawn wagon bearing a load of cotton.


And in truth, although fans of Leverty’s FireHouse work will
find hat-tips here and there on the album – “Boll Weevil,” for example, with
its doomy minor chord progression, slashing guitars and undulating keyboards,
is definitely arena-ready – Deep South does live up to the mandate Leverty set for himself. The bluesy, anthemic
“Trouble So Hard” (previously covered by Moby) is modern in feel, yet true to
its origins, while “Run On” is delivered with class and style and can stand up
proudly alongside earlier versions by Odetta and Johnny Cash (Leverty’s
tastefully spare banjo picking is a treat, too). Another winner is “Samson And
Delilah,” which is more Gov’t Mule than Grateful Dead and boasts some searing,
cosmic cowboy lap steel. And both “Wade in the Water” and “Man of Constant
Sorrow” have their eye-opening moments too, from the former’s marriage of
gospel vocals and metal guitar to the latter’s Southern rock update of Ralph
Stanley (by way of Dan Tyminski).


O, brother Bill, where art thou? Here’s hoping for a Deep South Vol. 2, because there’s something both
cheeky and compelling about approaching traditional tunes with the intention of
giving ‘em a thoroughly modern twist. Some purists may be aghast at first
listen, but repeated spins simply reveal the inherent timelessness of the
material. Paying tribute to one’s roots doesn’t necessarily mean studiously and
reverently copying what’s come before.


On,” “Samson and Delilah,” “Wade in the Water” FRED MILLS


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