Setting Sun – The Feelings Cure
While not entirely Americana this pop aggregation has a bright performing drive, friendly, optimistic music on a low flame. But songs like “Cool,” & “Sometimes,” has a simplicity in arrangement & showcase that’s charming.
It’s a self-produced CD by a Hudson Valley, NY indie band – their first in 10 years & sixth LP. They’re a fine example of the music coming from independent sources. It isn’t juvenile, spare, or laconic. Lead vocalist/songwriter Gary Levitt (guitar/bass) has a voice good enough to not sound much like other valium-induced male vocalists of the day.
Levitt has a laid-back accomplished, experienced tone that’s found on LPs by Joe Henry & Peter Himmelman & he has good tonality & style similar to Cat Stevens (Yusuf). With the 10-cut The Feelings Cure (Drops May 19–Young Love Records) the songs are compelling throughout. No controversies, no spiraling out-of-control lead guitars or pontificating lyrics.
“Counting the Cows,” is a balladry that borders on fine rootsy music with violins. A slow burn melody & good storytelling lyrics. Gary’s vocals are perfectly suited. He sings confidently. The contrasting female backup vocal by Abby Hollander Levitt’s a nice touch. Use her more.
Some lyrics are melancholy, that’s life. Levitt explores territory realistically which other songwriters seldom touch upon or at least not heavily. Fatherhood, the passage of time & changes in life. There’s a thread of poignancy that runs through this music.
Levitt expressed something important about writing songs like a soundtrack to a neighborhood walk. Looking at people. Each with a different life, different problems, in different margins of happiness. That alone makes for a great-spirited concept.
But this all doesn’t sound like a band album. It’s a solo collection. I think Gary’s next step is to retire the Setting Sun moniker. Gary has a richness of material, but he lacks identity. Most of what’s going on here is all Levitt. He went from San Francisco, morphed into Brooklyn & then upstate New York. Time to create an identity – put a face to the songs.
The musicians are indeed all proficient, but they’re a rotating lineup. The “image” of Gary Levitt just doesn’t translate through something called Setting Sun. It’s not Toto, Foreigner, or Journey. Levitt deservedly needs to be seen as an heir to John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, or Cat Stevens. Van Morrison was part of Them, but his career took off when he became Van Morrison. Identity.
It’s none of my business, but that’s my PR belief. Gary isn’t The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Nirvana. A band name doesn’t suffice. The music does & I like this.
Highlights – “Cool,” “Sometimes,” “Can’t Send It Back,” “Counting the Cows,” “Good Die Young” “Same Face” & “A Symphony.”
Musicians – Lawrence Roper (keys/synth/vocals), Jonathan Hambright (drums) & John Burdick (bass/vocals).
Color photo courtesy of Lawton Mayer. CD @ Bandcamp & https://www.settingsuntheband.com/