Country music was born out of the marriage of blues and folk music, and like those that bore those genres, country music has traditionally expressed pain and perseverance, hope and hopelessness. So it’s fitting that rising roots artist Vivian Leva blends the well-worn tradition of Appalachian roots music with barroom-ready honky tonk.
Vivian Leva grew up attending fiddle festivals and playing traditional folk songs with her roots musician-parents in her hometown of Lexington, Va. Since then, she’s been celebrating her Appalachian upbringing, touring the country with musical partner Riley Calcagno.
On March 2, Leva released her debut solo album Time is Everything on Free Dirt Records and it’s a triumph of lyricism and musicianship.
Album-opener “Bottom of the Glass” is steeped in the familiar imagery of a lonely barstool-dweller and a wedding ring in the bottom of a whiskey glass all while sounding fresh and modern. That’s even more impressive when you consider Leva wrote the song when she was 14.
The title track, “Time is Everything,” is a quietly beautiful reflection on an unraveling relationship.
The beautifully solemn “Sturdy as the Land” is another album standout that will appeal to fans of the folk music of Hem and Gillian Welch.
The album takes a turn for the world-weary with “No Forever,” a deceivingly jaunty anthem for jaded lovers.
Leva ruminates on a changing world on the Paul Burch song, “Last of My Kind,” one of two covers on the album. Fittingly, it’s a song about carrying on the traditions that bind communities together.
“If there were a librarian to the earth, on me she’d place a sign,” Leva sings. “Treat with care, don’t crease or tear/I am the last of my kind.”
There seems to be a near constant cry that country music is on the decline, but anyone who’s paying attention knows that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a fan of country and roots music. Vivian Leva is proof of that.
For Fans Of: Rhiannon Giddens, Dori Freeman, Tyler Childers
Required Listening: “Why Don’t You Introduce Me as Your Darlin’,” a two-stepper that would’ve sounded right at home on an old Jean Shepard album.