Ever wanted to be a record company? Levi Lowrey's giving out the chance. This home-grown release is being distributed by both the Georgian songwriter and his fans. The concept is to buy the album at a premium price, then recoup (and maybe exceed) your investment through the strength of your own sales hustle. It's too soon to tell if that idea will shake or wake up the music business. But we do know about the merits of the record itself.
Lowrey's changed a good bit since the guitar-blast and whiskey odes of 2008's "I've Held the Devil's Hand." He's now a family man, including a wife facing a major health struggle (lymphoma). That's inspiration enough to give this particular song set its finest moments. Best of the bunch is "A Father's Love," which brings to mind and exceeds George Strait's "Love Without End, Amen." Anyone with children might recognize their own hearts in the refrain, "I hope you know how much I love you/ I hope you know how much it means for you to dream." The tender closing tune, "Young and Free," tackles the family's cancer struggle with honesty and determination -- Lowrey's wife movingly joins in with sweet harmony.
If Lowrey has an Achilles Heel, it's how he asks the song and arrangement to do all of the work. As a vocalist/interpreter, you can reliably find him in the same small pocket. But in the production of the songs, the multi-instrumentalist enjoys range and experimentation. So this record can't be pinned with an easy Americana or folk/rock label.
Yes, there are straight-ahead acoustic ditties (such as the excellent opener "Put Your Badge Back On" that harks back to the simplicity of old TV shows). The title track even brings back the '90s art-pop of an artist like Matthew Sweet. But other tries venture into territory too sleepy and hypnotic, such as the Gaelic strings of "A Maritime Song" or the weeping guitar strains of "The Old Family Tree." This release has its misses, but Lowrey looks good with his heart on his sleeve. Overall it's a fine effort. But only you can decide if it meets the approval of your record company.