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Levi Lowrey’s two-disc Roots and Branches is a majestic record. In the best of all possible worlds, it would be heard in an acoustically perfect concert hall by an audiencethat sits undistracted in the dark listening intently to itsexquisitely sculpted lyrics, transcendent melodies and intricately woven instrumentation. But it’ll work just fine in your car stereo, too.
Lowrey is a former member of and opening act for the Zac Brown Band and co-writer of the ZBB hits, “Colder Weather” and “The Wind.”
The Roots of the album’s title refers to 11 songs made famous in the late 1920s and early ‘30s by Lowrey’s great-great grandfather, fiddler Gid Tanner and members his celebrated band, the Skillet Lickers. During that era, Tanner eclipsed or stood shoulder-to-shoulder in popularity with the now legendary Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. In reviving these classics, Lowrey—a commanding fiddler and guitarist in his own right—is backed by the current edition of the Skillet Lickers, a self-regenerating assemblage of virtuosi that includes Phil Tanner, Russ Tanner, Fleet Stanley, Larry Nash and Joel Aderhold.
The Branches disc spotlights Lowrey’s astounding skillsas a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, bandleader and producer. Of the 10 songs here, the Dacula, Georgia nativewrote or co-wrote eight, each a cinematically luminous glimpse of adult life. “I try to make my lyrics as relatable as possible,” he says. “Obviously, I’m one man going through my own set of failures and successes, my own story. But the core of these emotions are experienced by everyone. I’m not afraid of being human.”
That humanity is forged and tempered in what one song calls “the side effects of living.” And, thus, we hear in Lowrey’s lyrics meditations on fate, regrets, guilt (both personal and cosmic), self-effacement, world-weariness, immortality, restlessness and the magnetic lure of home. If that sounds like too heavy an agenda for mere music, fear not—Lowrey leads us through these emotional rough spots with a savior’s touch.