Justin Levinson, Predetermined Fate


Why someone from Vermont with a soft, mellow Ben Folds-esque voice would desire to write a country album is beyond me, but something about it just works. Maybe it’s the something different that comes from pop/rock/country composition without the vocal twang.

Perhaps Levinson says it best:   “I’ve come supplied with duct tape and a couple of sticks of glue.” While in the case of “Myra’s Song” he’s offering to mend a broken heart, this also applies to his sort of DIY country. He may not hail from Tennessee, but he’ll make up his own rules, having some fun with the genre as it stands while adding his own twists. “Everytime You Learn Something” is a perfect example of this, a song with an undeniably country arrangement that sneaks in an acoustic guitar backing riff that is classically inspired. The lyrics are also interesting, because a lot of his other songs are tales of broken hearts and lost love, but this song carries the message that every time you learn something, it leads to more uncertainty, a message that certainly speaks to today’s twentysomething.

The best thing about Levinson’s music is that is has layers. As a listener, you are first made aware of the titles, which range from the brutally honest “Everything Has Always Been About You” and “Waiting For Someone To Love ME” to “Bandaid On a Bulletwound” and “Soles of Your Feet,” which are more open to interpretation. Then you hear the opening of the album, a distorted electric guitar going into Levinson’s “1, 2, 3, 4” followed by acoustic guitar chords with a country twinge, topped off with a Ben Folds sound-alike to make you wonder what you’re listening to and how you got your hands on it. But in a good way.

The songs are also backed by strong harmonies, which can definitely make any good song even stronger. The skillful harmonica solos also add a little something extra to the songs that leave you wanting more.

Perhaps my favorite song on the album is “Waiting For Someone To Love ME,” which opens with a jazz-inspired guitar riff backed by a piano that give the verses a hint of the blues, which segues into one of Levinson’s strongest hooks, where he sings high and the tenor is softer below him. Even the measure of whistling adds a little something extra to this song to make it worth listening to.

Coming from a Vermont resident, this album is completely unexpected, but it is a pleasant surprise to hear someone above the Mason-Dixon line challenge the genre and put his own spin on what it means to layer your songs with a country vibe.

Review By: Valerie Williams

[Rating: 3/5]

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