[Ball of Wax 31, as previously announced, will feature 15 local songwriters and bands all covering each other’s songs. Between now and the release show on March 9th, I will share the originals with you to provide a little background, and perhaps a deeper appreciation of the CD and show. (Which is March 9th. Did I mention that? March 9th. Columbia City Theater.) We’re posting the cover versions on Bandcamp, where you can pre-order the CD now.]
If you’re reading this, you probably know Levi Fuller and his music. Levi’s music is organic, largely acoustic and deeply rooted in all sorts of American folk styles. His songs range from quasi-poppy, like “The Mall of America” from 2009’s Colossal, to sparse and hypnotic, like “As the Crow Flies” from 2006’s This Murder is a Peaceful Gathering. Levi’s lyrics can be deeply personal and direct, often using the animal kingdom as a narrative starting point. This Murder is a Peaceful Gathering is a concept record about crows and the title track of Colossal is a foreboding cephalopod manifesto. With his distinctive finger-picked guitar and looping song structures, Levi has crafted a distinct and recognizable style.
“This Murder Won’t Hurt You,” from This Murder is a Peaceful Gathering, is emblematic of that style. Augmented by some scatter shot percussion, the song features Levi’s distant warble and what sounds like a banjo vamping around an arpeggiated figure. It’s creepy and Pentecostal, suggesting both revelation and judgement. It seems very specific to Levi and his body of work, so I had little choice but take it in an entirely different direction when I covered it as Virgin of the Birds. I substituted Levi’s sparse rural revivalism with Lateran artifice and bombast. Since I’m not half the guitar player Levi is, I added chord changes and chugged them out on a slightly overdriven electric bathed in reverb. There are synth strings, false heroic guitar solos and MIDI drums – I hope Levi’s cool with it. Nevertheless, enjoy the original in its trance-like simplicity.