december 2011

Levee Town’s Brandon Hudspeth (left) and Jimmy Meade: raising the songwriting ante on Pages of Paperwork

Bringin’ It

By David McGee

Levee Town
Levee Town

Based in Kansas City and clearly helping to energize the city’s resurgent blues scene, Levee Town is a tough-minded quartet (guitar, harmonica, bass, drums) boasting original songs from three band members, stellar musicianship (especially that of Jimmy Meade, whose harp work is a revelation throughout in its scintillating blend of idiomatic virtuosity and searing emotional components), striking vocals, and a feeling for post-war Chicago blues that recalls nothing so much as the ferocity of the early Rolling Stones, with some southern rock and Texas blues flourishes mixed in for good measure. Even the young Stones, though, would have trouble matching the intensity of Brandon Hudspeth’s sense of betrayal on his “Hurt But Strong,” with a vocal performance of sinister, seething grandeur that he actually surpasses at the 3:55 mark of this 5:31-length track with a downright scary guitar solo of sustained howling, trembling, moaning and screaming—woe be to the woman who inspired his grievances but thanks to her cold, cold heart we have a new blues number of substantial magnitude. Actually, “Hurt But Strong” is the second part of a two-pronged payback, following as it does another Hudspeth original, “Lowdown,” a stomping, driving, accusatory kissoff (“the memory of you/can’t be too soon forgot”) propelled in equal measure by Hudspeth’s screaming guitar and Meade’s unforgiving harmonica fury. And to extend this to a trifecta, these two numbers follow bassist Jacque Garoutte’s album opening “Paperwork,” the calm before the storm in being a slow but wrenching adieu to love gone south, notable for the morose thump of Garoutte’s bass and his pain-wracked vocal, with added doleful ambiance supplied by Meade’s shimmering harp and Hudspeth’s stinging guitar solos.

Levee Town, ‘Three Sides,’ from the band’s 2009 self-titled album. Jacque Garouette, lead vocal/bass; Brandon Humphries, guitar; Jimmy Meade, harmonica; Jan Faircloth, drums. Video from Drury University’s DU Uncut (2009), posted at YouTube by duuncut

Such are the themes (or theme) dominating Pages of Paperwork. Which is not to say every song asks why love has got to be so sad. There is, for instance, the cheerful shuffle of Garouette’s “Angel On My Shoulder,” an out-and-out celebration of a gal Garouette extols as “sent from above,” featuring Hudspeth and Meade on lively guitar and harmonic soloing throughout. Much like the opening trifecta of broken hearted blues, “Angel On My Shoulder” is the latter half of a double-shot upbeat passage kicked off by “Show Them Watcha Got”: boogiein’ and chooglin’ all the way, Levee Town takes Hudspeth’s ode to a certain lady’s physical charms out onto the dance floor with wild, raucous energy in support of his lustful proclamations.

These, however, are exceptions to the rule. Otherwise the band unburdens itself of missives such as “Four Leaf Clover,” a thumping, fierce track—some Skynyrd influence surfaces here in Hudspeth’s guitar work—obliterating “the evilest woman I ever seen.” The foot-stompin’ attack of “The Ring” serves a story about a wife spotted, ringless, fooling around with another man at a whiskey bar. “Don’t Wanna Wait” burns with a righteous ‘60s-ish rock pulse but happens to be about a guy vowing patience until his gal gets out of jail. Is it any wonder Hudspeth would write something such as “So Many Pages”? In this, a pounding scorcher in the Butterfield Blues Band mode, driven ceaselessly forward by guitar and harmonica, the singer  accuses his partner of deceptive packaging (“I started reading from front to back/it was much different than what I saw on the rack”) and prepares to hit the road. Blues bands all over the world are working this same turf—these are, after all, timeless blues topics—but on its fourth album, Levee Town starts moving away from the pack. Always an impressive band of musicians, its tunesmiths have stepped onto a higher rung with Pages of Paperwork. It whets the appetite for the next chapter.

Levee Town’s Pages of Paperwork is available at CD Baby

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024