Laurie Levine – Border Crossing (2013)

Laurie Levine is a Johannesburg-based songwriter, musicologist and performer who has produced an increasingly impressive sequence of albums. The big step forward was 2011’s Six Winters with a well judged production by Dan Roberts. Levine and Roberts teamed up again for Border Crossing but didn’t rest on their laurels.

Stylistically the album is still set in the American south. But that’s a big place with a rich musical tradition. The last album was strongly folk and country, but here things lean more in the direction of soul and gospel. Laurie Goes To Memphis? A mention in dispatches is due here to the rhythm pairing of Tebogo Sedumede and Justin Badenhorst who lay down compelling, kinetic soul grooves.The rest of the studio players (including Sez Adamson, surely South Africa’s best kept guitaring secret) are all strong and Roberts coaxes marvellously apt performances from them. If you’re disillusioned by the apparent state of South African pop and/or rock then get your hands (and ears) on a copy of Border Crossing. The playing, songs and production give nothing away to albums from the USA with a similar musical setting.

Lyrically we’re in more familiar (for Levine) territory. Relationships can be complicated and scary, but they can also be fun, beautiful and thrilling. The jump across the divides into shared space and onto an open road is the “Border Crossing”.

Levine’s own performance, the songs and the playing all come together to most satisfying effect. “You’re stealing my love”, she sings at one point, “and I want to be poor.” At iTunes prices (and iTunes pays a fair share to the artist) you’ll be no poorer for buying this high quality album.

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